Aerial imagery and 3D models are extremely powerful visual tools. Often, these are used primarily in early design and master planning. Some software tools connect directly to aerial imagery and 3D data providers. Unfortunately, Google has not really opened up the connection to their base 3D data. But we can capture imagery from it, and then rebuild in another photo-to-mesh tool, like Recap Photo. Keep in mind that you will be creating a 3D mesh, from an isometric 3D world view, which was created only from aerial images. Basically, your output will vary, and will probably not be high quality. But for the intended use in early design and master planning, the below workflow may be useful…

Note: Please investigate the license and copyright of this data for such use.

Here’s how:

  1. Open your desired 3D isometric aerial imagery in desired application (such as Google Earth, Google Maps or similar)

    *Note: User to be aware of relevant copyright restrictions
  2. Open ScreenToGif (downloads here). This is used to create snapshot images of the screen very quickly.
  3. Setup the scene, so that you have the ScreenToGif window appropriately overlaid onto your actual imagery
  4. Start recording, and slowly orbit at least 360 degrees as shown
  5. In ScreenToGif, open the image folder
  6. Convert the images from PNG to JPG (I used Irfanview Batch Convert)
  7. Load into Recap Photo, make new Object project, spend 12 cloud credits and start the mesh creation
  8. After meshing, in Recap use the measurement scale tool to scale the model based on the distance between two known points

  9. Export the 3D Model from Recap. Various formats are available. In this case, I exported directly to FBX with Y-Up and imported straight to Revizto. You could also import FBX to AutoCAD and then to Revit, or you could bring it into Meshmixer first to delete some parts of the model via OBJ.

In Revizto, the direct FBX import looks like this:

Sheet overlay in Revizto. Simply with a PDF and some freely available aerial imagery, we now have a 3D collaboration workspace ready to go:

  1. Go to
  2. Fill out the form and submit
  3. Download Google Earth Pro and start install
  4. Check your email for username and the free key
  5. When installation prompts you, enter username and serial number, and tick ‘Automatic Login’

As you probably know, Google Earth Pro adds some useful extra features for AEC and BIM… enjoy.


More on the free release:

I just installed the new version of Google Earth:
Google Earth
Build Date 7/12/2013

Playing with this and my SpacePilot Pro – what an a fun experience!!  Basically, much of the world now seems to have 3D depth – houses have height, trees protrude up from the terrain, city CBDs are highly detailed.  With the SPP, I can fly around, look in every direction.  How am I supposed to get real work done when I can play Google Earth SPP Flight Sim?

I previously posted about CADtoEarth at:

Although some people have struggled to implement it or understand how it works, I still like it as a quick way to import Google Earth topography as site context.  The new version is on Exchange at:


via email:
We, at AMC Bridge LLC, are excited to announce availability of new version of CADtoEarth for Revit the application that allows for seamless integration between Revit and Google Earth.

The CADtoEarth 2.0 add-in now allows users to create personal accounts on the CADtoEarth web application and provides individual control over the visibility of uploaded data.

We continue improving our applications, so please, dont hesitate to contact us at if you encounter any problems with the new version, or have any enhancement requests.

How to use

  1. Download and install the latest, free Google Earth applicationExternal link icon. Existing Google Earth users should ensure they have updated to the latest version (version 7.0.2 or newer).
  2. Save the qldglobe.kml file to your computer and double click on the file.

Some notes:
The default imagery used in Queensland Globe is the best available to the Queensland Government that can be released for public viewing.

All layers have been pre-set to only display between certain scales, i.e. more detailed layers will only display at larger scales (you may need to zoom in to see them).

new mapping images showing the entrance to the Clem-7 tunnel at Bowen Hills

High resolution aerial photography flown between August and December 2012 has recently been added for Brisbane, Ipswich, Moreton, Mackay, Redlands and the Sunshine Coast.

Main page:

One of the greatest things about Revit, and BIM in general, is that we usually design ‘in context’ – that is, with as much site information as we can get our hands on…

Vasari has that handy little option to import a Google Earth image into your model – well now, Revit has an add-in that does a bit more, including:

  • import surface from Google Earth
  • upload building to Google Earth

It is called:
CADtoEarth | Autodesk Revit | Autodesk Exchange Apps

Here is a quick guide on importing topography from Google Earth:

  1. Close Revit
  2. Install the tool from above link
  3. Start Revit
  4. Click the CADtoEarth Pane button
  5. Use the search box at top of the dialog to find your site
  6. Zoom in until the ‘can’t save’ message disappears
  7. Click the Surface tab in the dialog and click  Save Earth’s Surface
  8. Leave the dialog open, and click the Get Surface button on the Revit add-ins Ribbon panel
  9. Your surface has now been added to the Revit file as a Import Symbol.
  10. Use the Topography tool if you want to create a proper Revit topo from the imported data


From their website:

CADtoEarth is a family of innovative add-in applications for the most popular CAD packages that link modeling environment with Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth.
CADtoEarth offers some very exciting capabilities. Here is the partial list of what you can expect from the tool:
  • Upload a model directly from modeling session onto Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth
  • Import a section of the surface of the Earth directly from Google Earth into modeling session
  • Position your 3D structure on the imported surface within modeling session and then upload it back to Google Earth or Microsoft Virtual Earth
  • Perform the same operations on 2D objects in modeling environment and Google Maps
At the moment you can download CADtoEarth for the following platforms: SolidWorks, Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Inventor.
Please, take a look at the video demonstrations of CADtoEarth below. Those will give you a good idea about what this tool can do for you today and what you may want to see changed or added to fit your specific needs. So, if you would like to customize or enhance this generic tool to better fit you company guidelines then we’ll be more than happy to discuss the requirements with you.

CADtoEarth |

(embedded JWPlayer)

Looks like the BIM (model) of the Earth is going to be built by computers, not people:
Google is using a new technology to automatically generate  3D buildings from 45-degree angle aerial photography made by overlapping passes of aircraft. Each airplane has five cameras: four that point at 45 degrees, and one that points down.

Read more at:
Here’s why Google got rid of SketchUp – WorldCAD Access

Google Earth 6.2 features a new way of rendering all those mosaic pics of satellite and aerial photographs, smoothing out the borders between them so the globe looks even more like our beautiful blue planet.
That smooth beauty is not just visible from a distance, either — as you zoom in, the seamless look continues, all the way down to the closest views.

If you haven’t used Google Earth in a while, download Google Earth 6.2 and look at how much better it’s become.

Google Earth 6.2 Is a Massive Improvement, Shows Smooth Blue Planet [PICS]

Navigate to where you want to be and get as close as you can.

Start to create a placemark by clicking the pushpin icon.

In the placemark’s dialog box, click the “View” tab.

Change the number in the “Range” field to 500m.

Then believe it or not, click “Cancel” and you will see yourself zoom out to 500 meters altitude.

Google Earth’s placemark dialog box has the range setting in meters regardless of whether you have feet or meters set as your default in Tools –> Options. If you wanted exactly 500 feet, you would need to convert to meters and enter the meters value in the Range field.

via Appletom post at
How to Set Altitude in Google Earth

With regard to the datum of measurement for altitude, this statement from the above thread may be helpful:
Summary – when terrain is on, Google Earth’s eye altitude represents ASL (Above Sea Level). When terrain is off, Google Earth’s eye altitude represents AGL (Above Ground Level).

You can turn terrain on and off in Tools – Options.

There are actually 5 different ways that Google Earth measures altitude:
Clamped to ground
Clamped to sea floor
Relative to ground
Relative to sea floor

For more information on these, check out the post at this link.