Create A Professional 1m Contour Map

October 16, 2023

An accurate contour map is the baseline data set for your land.

It literally shows you the 3D shape of your land - on a 2D drawing.

A solid base map is required to do any sort of planning -
whether you want to build dams, roads or houses.

There are a few easy-to-use tools out there now that let you generate contours for your site. However, they export data from 3D satellite mapping in Google Earth - rather than more accurate data collection means - like LIDAR data.

LiDaR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, a remote sensing method that uses a pulsed laser to measure the distances to the Earth. Over the years significant resources have been thrown into mapping most of Australia with this method multiple times. 

As time passes these datasets become available to the public through the ELVIS portal. The data is available as a raster tif file and cannot be opened directly into user-friendly apps like Google Earth Pro. 

We utilise a professional open-source program called QGIS to convert the raster tif to a vector shape file which can then be opened in Google Earth Pro.

We recommend all land managers have a Google Earth Pro folder with a collection of layers that accurately map their property. From contours to water, fences to roads and forestry, having accurate pictures and measurements of these layers - informs long-term holistic and strategic decision-making. 

If you want some support developing the Base Map and Master Plan for your land - book a free strategy call with us here.

Without further ado…. here is how to

Create Accurate 1m Contours in Google Earth from LiDAR Data (Australia)

    1. Head to the ELVIS Website
    2. Select the Desired Area to Map
    3. Select the Latest DEM LiDAR Data for the area in question
    4. Enter your Email Address and Request Data
    5. Download the Data Set and Unzip
    1. Download and Open QGIS (Free Open Source Software)
    2. Add Data Set as Raster Layer (Menu→Layer→Add Layer→Add Raster Layer)
    3. Select Layer
    4. Click Menu→ Raster→ Conversion → Polygonarize (Raster to Vector)
    5. Click Vectorize → Save to File → Select Location & Name → Save as SHP
    6. Repeat as necessary (haven’t cracked code to do as a batch)
    7. MERGE LAYERS: Click Menu → Vector → Data management tools → Merge vector layers → Select location for new merged file → Select files to merge → Merge.
    1. Download and Open Google Earth Pro for desktop
    2. Click File → Open File → Select new SHP File → Open
    3. Right Click My Places → Add → Folder → Name Accordingly
    4. Drag layer up into New Folder (this is because Google Earth Will Load into Temporary Places and it won’t be there next time you open)
    5. Select Folder Click File → Save → Save my place as (this will save everything in that folder in google earth pro so it is there next time you open it)
    6. Stylin’ - I also like to save contours in a light orange/yellow colour with transparency so it doesn’t dominate the image. To do this… right click SHP file → get info → Line colour → pick colour → pick width as 1 → opacity 30% → OK. (tweak to your own artistic preference)
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