Skip To Content

Evaluate viewshed

A viewshed identifies the visible and non-visible areas from a specific location or set of locations within a study area. It takes into account factors such as elevation, terrain features, and any obstructions that may affect visibility, such as buildings, trees, or other structures.

A viewshed analysis can be used to answers questions such as:

  • Which areas can be seen from a fire lookout tower that is 15 meters high?
  • How frequently can a proposed disposal site be seen from an existing highway?
  • Where should the next communications repeater tower in a series be located?
  • Which areas cannot be seen from a collection of security cameras?

Visible and non-visible areas from two rooftop locations

Visible and non-visible areas are shown from two rooftop locations.

To perform a viewshed in ArcGIS, you typically need access to a digital elevation model (DEM) representing the terrain elevation and any other layers that represent features on the terrain such as buildings and trees.


You can do an interactive viewshed analysis in ArcGIS or use the geoprocessing tools in 3D Analyst extension to generate a viewshed raster.

Interactive viewshed

ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Earth and CityEngine offer interactive tools for exploring viewsheds. They can be used to determine the visible areas of a 3D view from a given viewpoint. They are calculated against the currently displayed content within a scene, including the ground surface and symbolized features such as buildings and trees. The viewshed area renders on the surface of the terrain and any 3D objects what is visible and what is not visible within a given distance.

The viewshed's observer location can be interactively moved through the view. The analysis parameters—the view distance, field-of-view angles, and direction—can be used to model real-world objects such as security cameras or spotters with binoculars. You can also create multiple viewsheds to identify areas that have double, or higher, visibility coverage.

Besides interactive placement of the observer and target points, there are several other methods In ArcGIS Pro and ArcGIS Earth to create a viewshed such as using the camera as the observer and applying a viewshed analysis along a selected line.

Viewshed analysis

The results produced by interactive viewshed tools are strictly visual, rendered dynamically and quickly by the GPU. As analyses are evaluated, results are rendered in the scene view for display only. This is ideal for use cases that require interactive and visual evaluation of results that change frequently. If you require the displayed analytical results as data, consider using the Viewshed geoprocessing tool in the 3D Analyst extension. This tool creates a raster, recording the number of times each area can be seen from the input point or polyline observer feature locations.

Viewshed output displayed on a hillshaded elevation surface

Viewshed output is displayed on a hillshaded elevation surface.


Interactive viewshed tools use the data currently available in the scene view to perform the analysis and then quickly render the result. Because the data in the scene view changes according to the level of detail (distance of the camera to the surface), the analysis results may change as you interact with the scene view (for example, zoom in or out, change camera tilt, and so on).

The processing time of the Viewshed geoprocessing tool is dependent on the resolution. For preliminary studies, you can use a coarser cell size to reduce the number of cells in the input. Use the full-resolution raster when the final results are ready to be generated.

If you are building a native app, you can use any of the ArcGIS Maps SDKs for Native Apps to perform client-side viewshed analysis. If you are developing a web-based app using ArcGIS Maps SDK for JavaScript, you can leverage server-side viewshed analysis capabilities by making a request to an ArcGIS Server geoprocessing service.

You can also do a line-of-sight analysis in ArcGIS. Viewshed analysis highlights areas in the scene that are visible for a given observer, while a line of sight shows which segments are visible along a line drawn between an observer and a target location.

Required software

ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Earth, and ArcGIS CityEngine offer interactive tools for exploring viewsheds. You will need ArcGIS Pro with 3D Analyst or Spatial Analyst to analyze viewshed line-of-sight and persist the results in a geodatabase. An ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise account is required to publish and share the analysis layers as a 3D scene service across your organization.

To use and create appropriate data for conducting a viewshed analysis, you'll need ArcGIS Pro Standard. To run the Viewshed geoprocessing tool, you'll need ArcGIS Pro Standard with ArcGIS 3D Analyst or Spatial Analyst.

Explore the following resources to learn more about conducting viewshed analysis in ArcGIS.

ArcGIS help documentation

Reference material for ArcGIS Pro:

ArcGIS blogs, stories, and technical papers


Esri-produced videos that clarify and demonstrate concepts, software functionality, and workflows:


Guided, hands-on lessons based on real-world problems:

ArcGIS solutions

Industry-specific configurations for ArcGIS:

Esri training

Guided, hands-on lessons based on real-world problems:

Developer resources

Resources and support for automating and customizing workflows:

Esri community

Online places for the Esri community to connect, collaborate, and share experiences: