Frequently asked question

Is it possible to create a custom elevation layer to use in the ArcGIS Online scene viewer?

Last Published: September 13, 2023


Yes, it is possible to create a custom elevation layer to use in the ArcGIS Online scene viewer. There are three different options available to create 3D scenes in ArcGIS Online:

  • Using Esri-provided elevation services as a Ground layer (the default is Terrain3D)
  • Using elevation image services
  • Importing a custom elevation layer generated from a local elevation source.

The last option is preferable when high-resolution elevation data or terrain model are being used, which reflects the heights of ground objects, such as canopies and buildings, that are intended to be extruded in the scene.

To publish and use a custom elevation tile layer in ArcGIS Online, a tile package must be generated. To create a tile package that publishes a web elevation layer, the following must be true:

In addition, the elevation tile layer and all other layers imported into the scene must have the same tiling scheme as the basemap of the scene. If the elevation tile layer is used in a Local scene and a custom basemap with a custom tiling scheme is used, the elevation tile package must use the same tiling scheme and projection as the custom basemap. If the elevation tile layer is used in a Global scene, the only valid tiling schemes are:

  • ArcGIS Online/Bing Maps/Google Maps
  • WGS84 Geographic Coordinate System, Version 2
The units of the elevation values must match the units of the scene projection. For example, if the scene is using the ArcGIS Online/Bing Maps/Google Maps tiling scheme, the elevation units must be set to Meter to correctly render terrain fluctuation in the scene.

For more details on Global and Local scenes, refer to the following documentation: Choose global or local.

The following steps create an elevation tile package using geoprocessing tools in ArcGIS Pro or ArcGIS for Desktop, and subsequently publish to ArcGIS Online as an elevation tile layer.

  1. Run the Generate Tile Cache Tiling Scheme tool, with Tile Format set to LERC compression to generate a new LERC tiling scheme based on the elevation dataset. Skip this step if the elevation layer with ArcGIS Online basemaps is used.
  2. Run the Manage Tile Cache tool to generate a LERC cache. For Input Tiling Scheme, use one of the following:
    • ARCGISONLINE_ELEVATION_SCHEME, which matches the ArcGIS Online/Bing Maps/Google tiling scheme used by ArcGIS Online basemaps.
    • ARCGISONLINE_ELEVATION+_SCHEME, with two additional levels matches the ArcGIS Online/Bing Maps/Google tiling scheme used by ArcGIS Online basemaps but has two additional levels for higher-resolution data.
    • Import a scheme that uses the tiling scheme created in Step 1, or the tiling scheme of an existing image service. If using this option, browse to the tiling scheme file or service for Import Tiling Scheme.
    When running the Manage Tile Cache tool in ArcGIS for Desktop, for the Input Data Source parameter, browse to the data source location to add the full path of the elevation layer instead of selecting the layer added to the MXD file from the drop-down menu. Otherwise, an empty tile cache is generated. This issue is documented in BUG-000100807.
  3. Run the Export Tile Cache tool with the Export Cache As option set to Tile package.
  4. Run the Share Package tool to add the tile package to My Content in ArcGIS Online.
  5. Log in to ArcGIS Online. In the Item Details page of the elevation tile package, click Publish to publish it as an elevation tile layer.
This elevation tile layer can be used in ArcGIS Online scenes as a custom elevation layer by adding it as a Ground layer in a scene that has the same tiling scheme.
If ARCGISONLINE_ELEVATION_SCHEME or ARCGISONLINE_ELEVATION+_SCHEME is used in the Manage Tile Cache tool, the generated tile cache will be in the projection of WGS 1984 Web Mercator (Auxiliary Sphere) regardless of the projection of the elevation data source.

Article ID:000014615

  • ArcMap
  • ArcGIS Online
  • ArcGIS Pro 1 x

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