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Site suitability analysis

Identifying the best place for something—where 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 for users to 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.)

To use the geoprocessing tools and raster functions required for suitability modeling in ArcGIS Pro, you need either ArcGIS Image Analyst or ArcGIS Spatial Analyst. It is also possible to run your analysis using ArcGIS Enterprise. You may also want to use ArcGIS Image Server to host and share dynamic image services that execute suitability analysis models.

ArcGIS Help

Reference material for ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS Enterprise:

ArcGIS blogs, articles, story maps, and white papers

Supplemental guidance about concepts, software functionality, and workflows:


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

Learn Lessons

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

ArcGIS Solutions

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.

Esri Community

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

  • See what the imagery community is saying about raster-based site suitability analysis.

* Esri's top picks

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