Importing Satellite and Aerial Imagery into AutoCAD

Introduction

Do you want to learn how to import georeferenced aerial and satellite imagery into your AutoCAD drawings?

Imagery is a very important and powerful tool for engineering. In the conceptual design, it can help the designer to specify all the potential solutions or get a general idea of the current situation. During the preliminary stage, it aids the engineer to design with better accuracy and provides important site details, while at the same time results into avoiding the time and money consuming later re-designs. Finally, during the construction, monitoring of the project can be performed, thus controlling the progress and getting a dynamic general visualization of the resulting construction.

Whether from identifying the gradient of roads, bridges, airstrips, networks and current buildings, to locating hydrants, street inlets, planning road markings/signs and much more, satellite and aerial imagery constitutes an economical and accurate method for obtaining valuable information for any engineering, architectural and construction project. 

This is why Plex.Earth 5 is a mandatory design tool for any engineer, as it offers recent satellite/aerial imagery and historic images of very high quality, from a number of premium providers. At the same time, the user acquires full usage rights on them, including the ability to print, distribute, and create any kind of derivative work from them.

This tutorial walks through all the necessary steps in order to import imagery into AutoCAD drawings. At the same time, some general tips and information are provided, for a better understanding of the capabilities of the software.

Part 1: The "Imagery" Pannel
Part 2: Import Simple Image
Part 3: Create Imagery Mosaic
Part 4: Imagery Manager

 

Part 1: The "Imagery" Pannel

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All the necessary commands for importing georeferenced imagery into AutoCAD can be found in the "Imagery" panel.

Note: Before using any "Imagery" feature, the georeference of the drawing must have been
defined. Otherwise, the software will not know where to place the imported images.

The tools in the panel are three:

Imagery Manager: It allows managing all the imported imagery into a drawing. This way the user can navigate between various providers and dates, for the same area.

Import Simple Image: With this command, a single-tile image will be imported. If the area is very big, the quality will be low, as the software will need to cover an area with only one picture. However, this procedure is very fast.

Create Imagery Mosaic: For high quality imported imagery that is consisted of many tiles. The importing time for a large area will be higher, however, the user will now be able to define the zoom level that is satisfactory for the project.

tip_icon_small.png The quality of an image depends on the zoom level (or eye altitude - the vertical distance between the object that captures the image and the earth's surface).

Now imagine having various pictures from various heights. If you are too high, you will be able to cover the whole area. However, you will be able to see very few details.

On the other hand, if you take pictures from a very low height you will be able to see more details, but you will need to take more pictures (tiles) in order to cover the whole area.

Plex.Earth automatically takes all these tiles and combines them into a large mosaic for better quality. 

Τhe user will have to choose between one of these tools, in order to continue with the importing process. 

Part 2: Import Simple Image

Consider the following road design and suppose that we want to quickly compare our drawing with the existing situation. The import of a simple image (1 tile) seems very convenient for this case.

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In order to do that:

a) We click on the "Import Simple Image" tool.

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b) When prompted we specify the area we want to cover with imagery:

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c) From the window that pops up, we select our provider and the dataset that suits our needs.

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d) Click on "Capture Image" and our simple image will be imported into our AutoCAD design. From the moment an image is downloaded, the "Imagery Manager" window pops up. This allows the management of all the imported images (single-tile and mosaics) and also provides valuable information.

For example, in this simple image, we can see that the capture date of this image is February 13, 2020. 

Finally, in order for Plex.Earth to cover all this area with only one tile, the Zoom level was 16. Of course, if he had chosen a smaller area the Zoom level would have been higher and the quality better and vice versa.

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Part 3: Create Imagery Mosaic

In cases where there is a big area and it is detailed imagery is needed, for example in order to act as an underlay in which the design will be based, Simple Image is not enough. In those cases, the "Create Imagery Mosaic" command will be used.

The idea behind is to cover the area with tiles of very high zoom levels (and consequently with more details) and combine them into a large mosaic.

In order to do that:

a) We click on the "Create Imagery Mosaic" tool.

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b) Again, when prompted, we specify the area we want to cover with imagery.

Notice that "Imagery Manager" did not close, as it keeps track of all the imported pictures, as was the Simple Imagery from the previous part.

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c) From the window that will pop up, we select our provider.

Νotice that now, in contrast with the previous step, we can define the Zoom Level. Each provider has a different one, so the designer to be able to find the quality that satisfies his design needs.

When the settings are completed, we click "OK" and "Create Mosaic".

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d) A grid will appear that will be showing the tiles which will cover the area.

By clicking on "Capture", all the tiles will be downloaded.

However, there is also the capability to import specific tiles. We just go to the "Imagery Manager", hold "Ctrl" and click the desired Tiles.

In this case, only Tiles 8 and 13 were chosen and are now highlighted on the grid. By clicking on "Capture" you can now fetch only the specific tiles.

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tip_icon_small.png If you want to undo the selection of specific tiles and capture all the given tiles, just press "Esc".

The importing process will now begin.

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If later you decide that you want to import more tiles, you can follow the same process. Just select the new tiles you need and click "Capture". In this example, we now added Tile 18 as well.

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When the importing is completed, you can exit the editing mode of this specific mosaic by clicking on "X", on the top-right corner of the Imagery Manager.

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An additional feature of the mosaic editor is the ability to import other tiles (or reimport existing ones) from different datasets.

For example, in the picture below, if we "Click to select another dataset", we can select to import imagery from various dates. This can be done for each tile (or group of them) separately.

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As each provider offers different features, datasets and capabilities, click here to find out which features each one supports.

Part 4: Imagery Manager

"Imagery Manager" is a very important feature as it allows the user to manage all the Plex.Earth imagery in AutoCAD. I pops-up automatically when an image is imported (in image-editing mode), and it can also be accessed by clicking the "Imagery Manager" icon from the "Imagery" panel.

By clicking the "Imagery Manager" icon, you access the general Imagery Manager options.

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Once the side-window of "Imagery Manager" opens, we can see that there are various features.

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New Image and New Mosaic: The respective buttons for "Import Simple Image" and "Create Imagery Mosaic", for quick access.
Sources: See the collection of all available providers, including any custom maps you have created with the Map Explorer.
Hide: Choose your Imagery from the list in the Imagery Manager and temporarily hide it.
Remove: Delete any selected imagery from the list

Warning: If an imagery is removed, it is deleted permanently from the records and this cannot be undone. The image must be imported again, in order to re-appear in the drawing.  

Next to every imagery on the list, you can see four buttons:

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With the first one, you zoom to the respective image. With the second one, you can hide or show it. Use the pen button to change the name of the imagery. By clicking "Edit", you can re-access the image-editing mode of Imagery Manager on any image in your list.

There are two imagery-edit modes: one for Simple Images and one for Mosaics, as shown below. You can choose the "Rename" option, to choose another name for your Simple Image or Mosaic. In the case of Mosaics, you can also choose a different name for every tile, by clicking on the pen button.

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If you want to go back to the main Imagery Manager list, just click on the "Return to Imagery Manager" on the top of the palette.

Each time a drawing with Plex.Earth imagery opens in AutoCAD, the software must restore the imported images. This can be done by clicking on the "Click here to restore imagery" command. However, the user can also choose to "Automatically restore imagery upon drawing opening" for more convenience. 

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Conclusion

Plex.Earth 5 offers high-resolution images, in just a few minutes from all over the world. In our case a picture is worth the amount of money and time the engineer saves. Satellite or aerial imagery is a great tool for providing invaluable information about a project. Sometimes it’s actually better than being there, as you can access them from your office, during the design process. Actually, with our collaboration with the best providers in the field, like Maxar, Nearmap and Hexagon, Plex.Earth 5 definitely changes the old saying to "Seeing is designing"!

Feel free to contact us at support@plexscape.com, for any questions you may have and don’t forget to start your free trial today.

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