This post follows is part of a series and follows on from Part 2: 3D Object Scans, software and publishing, it’s a quick how-to starting point for ArcGIS Pro users. I hope in Part 3 to cover more of this stuff in detail, but for now this is what I have…

Now, I know this is a niche post, for some geospatial professionals the company Esri is important and it’s primary desktop GIS tool ArcGIS Pro is a beast of a program with a huge range of capabilities. Being a ‘paid-for’ product also means added complications as there are three licencing levels and multiple ‘extensions’ which can add considerably to the cost. So when some asks an Esri user “can I do x?” the answer is invariably “that depends”…

The following is my rough guide on how to get your nice shiny 3D scan from your new iPhone 12 Pro into some maps. Now, I’m not here to spoon feed it to you, this is a starting off point so you can experiment and get used to what works best for you. My experience has shown that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to this. Also its my weekend and I have limited time to write this up.

Survey a rubble pile, make it a multipatch and then a raster to calculate volumes etc… you may not need to know exactly where it is..

A reminder that most scanning apps do not offer export of a geolocation file of any sort (expect 3D Scanner App and it’s LAS export). So you have to place these scans manually, OR have some kind of Ground Control Points you scan that you know the location of. As I’ve said before the iPhone scans seem reasonably accurate relative to themselves…

3D Mesh Models and the GeoProcessing Tools

The GP Toolbox is a thing of wonder and frustration, for each tool there is a corresponding help page with a ‘Licensing Information’ heading at the bottom (weird because I need to know first if I have the prerequisites to use it! For brining in your models from the iPhone one of these tools should help. I suggest creating a new ArcGIS Pro project for your scans, especially at the beginning because I guarantee you will experiment with different settings etc…


Fun fact! ArcGIS Pro supports KMZ natively, if you don’t need to do anything other than view it this is a great option, just drag and drop it in to your 3D Scene from the Catalog. If you own SketchUp import the scan as DAE into your SketchUp file and georeference there then export out as KMZ.

ArcGIS CityEngine

Okay this is really a procedural modelling standalone 3D tool from Esri. It supports a range of 3D formats and that means I can drag a drop my 3D exports (not point clouds) into a scene (with a geo location) and literally drag it into place on top of a basemap and terrain extract. It’s quick and easy and you can export to a variety of formats from here including a multipatch in file geodatabase (for use in ArcGIS Pro).

LAS Files

This is exciting, many of the 3D scanning apps support LAS export which means point clouds! Most unfortunalet they are not georeferenced, which may not matter. Open a new local scene in ArcGIS Pro, remove ground terrain and basemap and drag and drop the LAS file, you should be able to see it just not in a place.

Alternatively 3D Scanner App seems to be the first to offer georeferenced LAS file exports! Firstly lower your expectations these are relying on your phones GPS sensor so accuracy is low. Position and angle of scan will be inaccurate, but hey its a start! Now these LAS file exports currently have zero altitude information so I have placed them in a scene and then used a cartographic offset to raise them above the ground.

The Future?

Expect more apps to support georeferenced LAS files, and also since they can export colladas, I 100% predict that a few apps will also support KMZ exports which would make life sooo much easier! Now if only we can convince them to support geopackages or scene layer packages…. 🙂

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