Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Accessing Aerial Imagery in Civil 3D

The guys at Autodesk Labs have released a really cool and very useful new tool for Civil 3D and Map 3D. It allows you to connect to Bing Maps (Microsoft) from within your drawing and provides access to aerial imagery and road information quicker than I have ever managed to get it in there before! No messing around with world files or scaling and manipulating image tiles...

Below is a screen grab of my site before I connect to the mapping. There are a number of roads, existing dwellings and a railway running across the south of the site. All of this of course would be easier to make out if we had some aerial imagery. 
1.   To connect to the mapping you will first need to assign a coordinate system to your drawing. Type MAPCSASSIGN at the command line and search for your coord sys. Use a filter if you know part of it's name.
2.    The utility provides a new connection in the data connect tools. To open these tools type MAPWSPACE at the command line and then click on the Data Connect button in the dialog box that appears. This opens the Data Connect dialog box below. Highlight Add Basemap Service Connection and click Connect. this makes a connection via the internet with Bing Maps.
Select the data layers you want to add to your drawing and click Add to Map.
The information is added to the map within the limits of the coordinate system. It appears to use information from the coordinate system to run a query on the Bing Maps to determine the amount of information it pulls down to your drawing. This query will update if you change your coordinate system after you have connected. This is handy if you pick the wrong coordinate system initially, just re-run the MAPCSASSIGN command and choose the correct one -the mapping will update automatically.

You can use the layer controls to turn off some of the information. In my case I just want to see the aerial imagery. The large red circle I drew myself so I could locate where the project is.
The quality is pretty decent as you can see below... The only draw backs with this tool are that you cannot save the maps (Im not sure if this is that big of a deal though as you can print the information) and it is also only available on the Labs website until 30th June. Other than that this is a great new tool and a great direction for the software to be heading... The tool is called Project Basejump and its also free, download and test it out HERE
A good addition to this tool might be the ability to enter into street view from directly within your drawing. I have found street view very useful on previous jobs when you are back in the office after completing a survey. If some of the line work doesn't make sense or you cant remember what was happening on the ground at a particular point (and you haven't taken a photo!) - just use street view to refresh your memory. The only problem at present is that you have to jump back and forth between Bing maps or Google Earth and your drawing to do this... food for thought...

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