Seeing through the trees: mapping terrain in West Africa

Updated: Sep 14


Creating a digital terrain model from a digital surface model

At Terrabotics, we use our proprietary algorithms to make world-class, sub-pixel precision elevation models of the earth from space. We do this using very high resolution (30-50cm) satellite images from a range of satellite providers.


Terrabotics recently mapped several hundred square kilometres of land in West Africa to support infrastructure planning and development work. High detail (1m) and accuracy (RMSE 50cm) Digital Surface Models (DSMs) and Digital Terrain Models (DTMs) were generated along with high accuracy orthorectified imagery.


One of the big challenges of satellite-based topographic mapping is measuring the bare earth below surface features, such as trees and buildings. Knowing the shape of the bare earth is crucial for engineers as it controls how water drains, how much earth needs to be added or removed to level a surface, and where to place foundations.


By first generating a very high accuracy (<50cm RMSE) DSM and carefully mapping the location of trees, buildings and other superficial features, Terrabotics are able to ‘strip away’ these features leaving a simulated bare earth DTM.


Terrabotics’ DTMs provide a great representation of the bare earth and are a rapid and cost effective tool for understanding terrain morphology in remote and inaccessible parts of the world.


If you would like to know more about Terrabotics’ terrain services have a read of our 3D Topographic Mapping services page here.

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