Elevation rasters store elevation measurements for a given area in an evenly spaced grid. These measurements might depict "bare earth" digital terrain models (DTMs), or digital surface models (DSMs) that include buildings, vegetation, and other above-ground features. Elevation rasters can also be used to derive datasets like hillshades, slope, or aspect to use for visualization or analysis.
Organizations often manage collections of elevation datasets with different projections or resolutions, which can be challenging. These collections can also be very large—instead of dealing with the files directly, it's often more manageable for the end user to connect to services that provide only the data necessary for visualization or analysis.
Using a mosaic dataset configured to manage elevation data makes it easier to manage and share elevation data from multiple sources. Raster functions (a capability of mosaic datasets and ArcGIS Image Server) can visualize the data on-the-fly as a hillshade, slope, aspect, or other derived product (no preprocessing required). Mosaic datasets can also be served as dynamic image services, making elevation data accessible to end users and applications.
Explore the following resources to learn more about managing elevation data. (Not sure where to start? Look for the star by Esri's most helpful resources.)
Note:To create and edit mosaic datasets, you'll need ArcGIS Desktop (Standard or Advanced). To serve mosaic datasets, you'll need ArcGIS Image Server.
Imagery Workflows resources
Community-supported tools and best practices for working with imagery and automating workflows:
- Read a detailed description of best practices for managing elevation.*
- Download sample Python scripts and sample elevation data to try automating the management of elevation using best practices.*
- Check out an example web app that relies on elevation data managed with mosaic datasets.*
- Read detailed documentation explaining best practices for creating mosaic datasets and structuring and formatting imagery and rasters.
- Download Terrain Tools, which offer a variety of cartographic options for representing terrain and surfaces in ArcGIS. Check out the Terrain Tools Tour story map to see the tools in action.
Reference material for ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise:
- Learn more about using mosaic datasets to manage imagery in ArcGIS Pro.
- Find more information about using raster functions to visualize your imagery in ArcGIS Pro, especially functions for Aspect, Hillshade, and Slope.
ArcGIS blogs, articles, story maps, and white papers
Supplemental guidance about concepts, software functionality, and workflows:
- Read a white paper discussing MRF raster format and LERC compression.
Authoritative learning resources focusing on key ArcGIS skills:
- Watch Managing Raster Data Using ArcGIS (2-hr web course) to learn how to use mosaic datasets enable efficient data storage and fast visual performance.
Resources and support for automating and customizing workflows:
- Visit the MDCS GitHub repo to download a Python script to help automate the creation and configuration of mosaic datasets.
- If you plan to manage your satellite imagery in the cloud, or want to optimize the data format for faster access, visit the OptimizeRasters GitHub repo for scripts and tools to optimize data transfer and management.
Online places for the Esri community to connect, collaborate, and share experiences:
- See what the imagery community is saying about managing elevation.
* Esri's top picks