Identifying the best place for something-the best place to land an emergency helicopter, for example-can be complicated. Suitability modeling is a common approach to answering this question, factoring in multiple variables of varying importance to identify locations that best meet established criteria for a site.
Suitability modeling can solve a variety of problems. Examples include:
- Where to site a new housing development
- Identifying potential wildlife habitat areas
- Identifying optimum routes (i.e. cross-country mobility)
- Where to locate firefighting crews to best fight fires in the dry season
- Where to deploy troops in a military operation
- Where to locate a new ski area
ArcGIS provides a set of geoprocessing tools and raster functions to enable users perform suitability modeling that incorporates raster data. To identify possible locations, suitability analysis ranks and scores sites based on multiple weighted criteria. First, you'll define the problem, identify the criteria for solving it, and generate the input datasets required. These variables might include raster datasets (slope, for example), site attributes, proximity to point/line features, etc. Then, you'll transform the input values to a common ratio or preference scale so the criteria can be compared. Next, you'll assign weights to selected criteria and aggregate them to determine scores for each potential site. Finally, you'll use these scores to rank sites from most suitable to least suitable to identify the best possible locations for your application.
Explore the following resources to learn more about performing suitability analysis in ArcGIS. (Not sure where to start? Look for the star by Esri's most helpful resources.)
Note:To use the geoprocessing tools and raster functions required for suitability modeling in ArcGIS Desktop, you need either ArcGIS Image Analyst or ArcGIS Spatial Analyst. It is also possible to run your analysis using ArcGIS Enterprise Advanced. You may also want to use ArcGIS Image Server to host and share dynamic image services that execute suitability analysis models.
Reference material for ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise:
- Understand the suitability analysis workflow better by reading through a set of conceptual steps for creating a suitability map.*
- Better understand the suitability modeling workflow in ArcGIS (this topics links to ArcMap geoprocessing tools, but the same tools are available in ArcGIS Pro).
- Read how the Weighted Overlay geoprocessing tool and the Weighted Sum geoprocessing tool work, both of which are critical in suitability workflows.
- Read about the Weighted Overlay raster function and the Weighted Sum raster function (and learn more about raster functions and how they're different from geoprocessing tools).
ArcGIS blogs, articles, story maps, and white papers
Supplemental guidance about concepts, software functionality, and workflows:
- Read through this comprehensive PowerPoint on suitability modeling in ArcGIS.
- Read a blog with step-by-step instructions on how to use raster functions to determine mountain lion habitat suitability.*
- Read a blog outlining conceptual steps for how to propose wildlife corridors for key species using suitability analysis.
- Read a blog with step-by-step instructions for calculating drone corridors for package deliveries using suitability analysis.
Esri-produced videos that clarify and demonstrate concepts, software functionality, and workflows:
- Watch a demonstration of how suitability analysis can be used to identify optimum flight corridors for drones to deliver packages. (7 mins)*
Guided, hands-on lessons based on real-world problems:
- Use geoprocessing tools to find suitable corridors to connect dwindling mountain lion populations.
Industry-specific configurations for ArcGIS:
- Try out a cross country mobility template designed for the defense industry to estimate off-road speed for vehicles. This solution relies on suitability analysis performed with geoprocessing tools.
Resources and support for automating and customizing workflows:
This Jupyter Notebook walks through how to identify optimal routes for drone-based package delivery using the ArcGIS API for Python.
Online places for the Esri community to connect, collaborate, and share experiences:
- Ask the imagery community questions about raster-based site suitability analysis.
* Esri's top picks