Remember Google Earth Import in Civil 3D?

by: Eric Chappell | 02/26/2015
Estimated Reading time: 4 - 6 minutes

Remember the days when you could import Google Earth imagery and surface data right into Civil 3D? That was a very popular feature and one that we still get asked about to this day. Well, with the latest updates to InfraWorks 360 and Civil 3D you can accomplish the same results and then some!

Let’s say it’s a brand new project and you want to build up some existing conditions data in Civil 3D like you used to with the Google Earth import feature. Start by jumping into InfraWorks 360 and using Model Builder to locate your project and generate a model.


Wait a few minutes until the magic e-mail arrives, informing you that “Your InfraWorks Model is Ready!” and then open the model. Set the coordinate system appropriately based on how you intend to work in Civil 3D.


Now close the model and crack open Civil 3D. You’ll need to have Civil 3D 2015 with the latest service pack and Productivity Pack 1 installed. Start a new drawing and go to the Toolbox tab of Prospector. If you’ve successfully installed Productivity Pack 1, you should see the command Open InfraWorks model. Just right-click it and select Execute:


Click the browse button at the to of the Open InfraWorks Model dialog box and browse to the SQLite file of the InfraWorks model you just created. Remember that the model must be closed for this to work properly so the easiest way to ensure that is to simply close InfraWorks 360. You’ll need to assign a coordinate system to your current Civil 3D drawing and you can do that by simply clicking the Set a Coordinate System button:


The next dialog will make it easy for you by offering to simply use the same coordinate system as your InfraWorks 360 model. Next, you need to define how much of the InfraWorks model you want to bring in. You can bring in the whole thing by selecting “Extents of InfraWorks model” or you can be more selective by choosing “Area of Interest” and clicking the Select Area button:


What happens next is super cool. The aerial imagery service will automatically kick on (you may be asked to log in to your Autodesk account) and the drawing will zoom in to the location of your project. You can simply draw a rectangle on the screen to indicate what area of the InfraWorks model you want to import. Doesn’t get any easier than that!


There is more we could talk about with settings, etc. but let’s leave it at that and click the Open Model button at the bottom of the dialog box. Civil 3D will spin for a bit as it processes and imports data and then…voila! Now you’ve got surfaces (AIW_Existing_Ground and AIW_Existing_Transportation), and alignments representing road centerlines. You’ll probably want to set the style for the AIW_Existing_Transportation surface to _No Display, in which case, you’ll get something that looks like this:



If you’d like to see a video of what I’ve described above, here you go:


Now it’s time for a bonus! Model Builder also has the capability to pick up some buildings as it gathers data for you. So how do you get those into Civil 3D?

Read this post ( to see how.


And join the conversation in our InfraWorks 360 community:

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I used this workflow and I get aerial image that is very coarse 1' to 3" resolution and DTM comes as 10' to 30' resolution. How can we get urban planning grade resolution with model builder: image to 1/2' and DTM to 3'?


@Eric Chappell yes, that is why I said 1' to 3' image resolution, after I set it's properties to the highest available (0.3m/pixel). Good for flight simulators but not so much for presenting a proposal of an urban intersection. Model builder needs more options from data providers with higher grade data sets. Even if it comes with a $$$ tag, it may prove cheaper than planting random cars, trees and traffic lights because they blur-out in the scene.

Thank you for making the video.