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Resources  More Useful Links

Supplemental Site Inspection and Analysis Tools

A number of online resources can be used to prepare for, enhance, and extend the inspection and analysis of a project site.  The following resource links are provided as a convenience and they represent some good examples of what's available today:

[If you have a site inspection/analysis resource recommendation for this page, please email us.]

Google Earth Pro

Access to online satellite and aerial imagery has been available via the free standard version of Google Earth for over a decade now; however, starting in January 2016, the advanced capabilities of Google Earth Pro are also available for free (if a license key is requested during installation, enter "GEPFREE").  If you have never seen this impressive virtual site inspection tool, then you can't possibly imagine all that you have been missing.  To get started, install and run Google Earth Pro, enter a project address in the Search field then click the "Search" button; see An Introduction to Google Earth Pro (PDF) and the Google Earth User Guide (PDF) for detailed usage instructions.
Users of AGTEK's PDF-enabled products can import a saved image from Google Earth and display it as a background layer in their AGTEK project file (see this AGTEK training video for step-by-step instructions).
Analytic Accessories for Google Earth (Install Google Earth Before Using These):
AGTEK Color Cut-Fill Map Overlay
Users of AGTEK's SiteModel 3D, GradeModel 3D, and Earthwork 4D products can export a plan-view color cut-fill map (and/or corresponding PDF plan sheets) to a KMZ file which displays as an overlay layer in Google Earth (see a PDF with brief instructions or watch a detailed AGTEK training video for Earthwork 4D).  The KMZ export option is not available to AGTEK Earthwork 3D users but they can print a cut-fill map to PDF, convert the PDF to JPG then upload and overlay the JPG image in Google Earth.
Topographic Contour Map Overlay
Google Earth lacks a function to display elevation contours but a workaround is to overlay a third-party topographic contour map.  For a seamless overlay of combined USGS "topo quads" for all U.S. states (and most U.S. territories), go to the Earth Point Topo Maps on Google Earth page then click the "View on Google Earth" button to open the EarthPointTopoMap_170102.kml file in Google Earth (a resulting Earth Point Topo Map subfolder will be located in Google Earth's Temporary Places folder but it can be moved to the My Places folder for future use).  For more control and options you will prefer to use the USGS topoView portal, which provides an intuitive map-based graphical interface for the location and selection of individual topo quads with a choice of topo quad edition (recent and historic) and download format--KMZ for Google Earth and geo-referenced layered PDF/TIFF options (download a KMZ map file then double-click it to view the topo map in Google Earth).  Other topo map overlay options include utilities such as Earth Survey QUADS and Google Earth Library.  See these interpretation resources if you're not familiar with reading USGS topo maps.
Interactive Soil Map Overlay
Are you unfamiliar with a site's soils and lacking a site-specific geotechnical report?  Go to the California Soil Resource Lab's SoilWeb Apps page then click the "SoilWeb Earth" link to open the SoilWeb.kmz file in Google Earth (a resulting SoilWeb subfolder will be located in Google Earth's Temporary Places folder but it can be moved to the My Places folder for future use).  This soil mapping tool is based on USDA-NRCS soil survey data, with coverage for about 95% of the United States.  The map displays soil types in the area of interest with supporting descriptions and, depending on location, additional details on engineering properties, vegetation, etc. may also be included.
State Geologic Map Overlay
The USGS Mineral Resources page provides Geologic Maps for the United States and KML/KMZ maps are available for all states (except Alaska and Hawaii).  Click the desired state kml/kmz file link to open the map in Google Earth (a resulting state Geologic Units subfolder will be located in Google Earth's Temporary Places folder but it can be moved to the My Places folder for future use).  The maps represent lithology via color filling corresponding to this interactive color legend.
Wetlands Data Map Overlay
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides a KML Wetlands Data Map for the United States.  Click the Wetlands-Data.kml file link to open the map in Google Earth (a resulting FWS Wetlands & Riparian Data subfolder will be located in Google Earth's Temporary Places folder but it can be moved to the My Places folder for future use).
State Plane Coordinate System Zone Map Overlay
This free utility can be used to identify the SPCS zone for any U.S. site and the borders between adjacent SPCS zones; it also includes a Lat/Long-to-SPCS converter.  Go to the Earth Survey SPCS83 for Google Earth page then click the "SPCGE" download link to open the spcge.kml file in Google Earth (a resulting SPCS833 subfolder will be located in Google Earth's Temporary Places folder but it can be moved to the My Places folder for future use; in order to see the zone boundaries, be sure to check the Zone Finder subfolder).  SPCS zone identification and Lat-Long/SPCS conversions can also be done using the free browser-based NGS Coordinate Conversion and Transformation Tool (NCAT) (a 15-minute training video covers the basics of using the NCAT tool).
Locate NGS Survey Control Points
DSWorld is a free PC-based utility that makes it easy to search for NGS (National Geodetic Survey) control points located near any U.S. site, with the results plotted in Google Earth (a 47-minute training video covers the features and functions of DSWorld).  An alternate NGS control point locator is the Earth Survey NGSCS utility.

AGTEK-Readable 3D Topo Contours

Although the Topographic Contour Map Overlay options for Google Earth (see above) are used only for a visual representation of site topography and the overlay contours cannot be imported and used for surface modeling in AGTEK, there are a number of sources for 3D vector topo contours that can be used for surface modeling in AGTEK.  [Note: Don't expect survey-quality horizontal and vertical accuracy from these sources (the 3D contours are typically sourced from the USGS for U.S.-located sites) but the resulting topo data may be a "good enough" starting point for preliminary site analysis and planning uses.]
SITEOPS Topo Lite
The ability to download a DWG file containing 3D contours (and an aerial image) for any U.S. parcel was a very useful feature of the formerly free browser-based SITEOPS® Topo Lite service from Blueridge Analytics.  Unfortunately, following Bentley Systems' acquisition of Blueridge Analytics, the free SITEOPS Topo Lite service was discontinued in 2017.  Equivalent (and expanded) functionality is now available via the Topo Import module of Bentley's subscription-based SITEOPS service but the cost may be prohibitive for infrequent users.  The spatial reference for SITEOPS' topo data is feet in state plane zone coordinates.
CAD-Earth Plus
CAD-Earth Plus ($249, requires AutoCAD Full 2010+) provides a number of CAD/Google Earth data-interchange functions, including the ability to capture and import a Google Earth terrain mesh (in user-defined units) and generate 3D contours from the terrain mesh.
Cadmapper
The free browser-based Cadmapper service allows users to download a DXF file containing 3D contours and 2D roadway alignments for any site location.  The spatial reference for Cadmapper's topo data is meters in UTM zone coordinates, which is an inconvenience for most U.S. users.
USGS TNM Download
USGS Topo Map GIS Data corresponds to the USGS topo maps discussed under Topographic Contour Map Overlay options for Google Earth (see above) but the GIS (Geographic Information System) data equivalents contain 3D topo contours, newer data sets and many additional data layers (click here for an overview with training video links).  The GIS map data is not directly readable by AGTEK because it is provided in a ESRI geodatabase (GDB) format; however, the GDB files can be read by QGIS (a free open-source GIS program) and the 3D topo contours can then be exported from QGIS to an AGTEK-readable format such as DXF.  [Tip: Layered vector GeoPDF topo maps can also be downloaded from the same TNM site and these can be directly imported by AGTEK.  Although the vector GeoPDF maps contain 2D topo contours, the contours can be quickly elevated in AGTEK and this will probably be an easier approach for most AGTEK users.]

Other Resources

There are simply too many potentially useful resources to list, but here are a few that may be worth a look (some of the Google Earth accessories described above tap their data/functions from the NGS and USGS resources below) ...
OpenTopography provides online access to free LiDAR topographic data sets for the United States and other countries (see Land Information New Zealand's basic tutorial for Creating Point Cloud Visualisations with OpenTopography).
National Geodetic Survey (NGS) provides online access to data and images as well as a Geodetic Tool Kit and other utilities.
TerraServer is a provider of aerial photos and satellite imagery.
The National Map (USGS) offers access to a wealth of data, maps, and images.
KML Tools provides some potentially useful geospatial data conversion utilities.