Uploading a Design File for Cut/Fill Analysis

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How to get access?
Cut Fill Elevation Comparison is available for Enterprise tiers. Learn more about our subscription plans or start your free Individual Trial today. For a high-level view of all of the overlays we offer, check out this page.

The new cut/fill comparison toolset allows you to compare the elevation of one map to a design surface (also known as a grading plan). With the heatmap visualization, you can easily identify where soil has been cut or filled from one map to another or how much soil needs to be cut or filled to reach design grade so that you can track changes and monitor the progress of earthmoving.

Important AutoDesk Support Guides:
-Creating Surfaces

Supported File Types

  1. Elevation Geotiff (.tif)
  2. DXF (ASCII) - ideally including 3DFACE surface triangulation
  3. DXF (ASCII) - including POLYLINE & LWPOLYLINE - will be triangulated automatically
  4. LandXML - ideally include surface triangulation
  5. 3D DXF - see more information about this feature here
Flat Surfaces with Untriangulated File Types
DroneDeploy will triangulate even flat areas when you upload untriangulated file types such as POLYLINEs or LWPOLYLINEs. This may lead to discrepancies if you compare these files in third-party software that do not do this. For more consistent results we recommend the 3DFACE DXF file type.



  1. Click on "Add" next to Project Files.


  1. Click on "Model / Design Surface", then "Select File".


  1. Processing may take up to one hour, depending on the size and complexity of the uploaded design.

  2. You'll receive an email with "success" or "failure". In the event of a failure expect to see a message explaining what went wrong.


Setting the Projection (EPSG Code)
You can set a project-wide EPSG code using the project settings in the upper right corner of your project. Click on the gear icon to access project settings. In the left panel, set a projection for the project with the drop down menu. Uploaded design surfaces will inherit the EPSG code in Project Settings, if specified. This differs from the past behavior, where we either 1. Used the native coordinate system for the file (for TIFF), or 2. Tried to infer the best coordinate system given the project’s location. If no EPSG code is set in Project settings, we will fall back to this prior logic.




(Optional) Create Surfaces in Civil 3D

In order to upload a Design Surface file into DroneDeploy, you must create the surfaces in Civil 3D. This is a different type of data from the lines and contours in most Civil 3D files. To do that you will want to follow the appropriate AutoDesk support guide for the file you are working with. Different files will require the different guides linked above, but for the purpose of this support guide we will be creating surfaces by Adding Contour Data to a Surface.

-Here we have imported a DXF file into Civil 3D and we are going to create a surface from the blue contour lines. First, select one of the segments, then right-click and click on "Select Similar".

Once the contour lines are selected you will go over to the surface section found in the 'Tool Prospector' menu, then right-click and select "Create Surface..." Go ahead and give the surface a name:

After the Surface has been created in the Tool Prospector menu, expand the "Definition" section under the newly-created surface. We are going to define our surface based on the selected contour lines. Right-click on "Contours" and choose "Add...":

Give your contours a name. You can leave the other settings as the defaults.

Now that you have created a surface and defined it based on your contour lines, you are ready to export it to a DEM!



1. Before exporting DXF, XML, or creating GeoTIFF surface ALL NON-RELEVANT LAYERS must be turned off. You must only include the elevation layers

2. Ensure that the file itself does not simply just contain elevation labels, but the file also contains actual embedded elevation data. It is common to see a DWG with a height label on the map written out, but the actual cursor position shows an X value, a Y value, and 0 for height, which is not ideal.


2. Export the Surface data from Civil 3D to a DEM

Once you have created the surfaces you will need to export the surface data to DEM. To export the Surface Data to a DEM File, you will want to follow the AutoDesk support guide.

-Right-click on the surface in the Tool Prospector menu and select "Export to DEM..."

First, select "GEOTIFF" as the file type in the dialog box and give your file a name:

Then, select the coordinate system for the export. Civil 3D uses a non-standard set of coordinate system codes; if you know the EPSG code, look up the corresponding CS-Map code here and enter that in the dialog.

Select "OK". It will take some time to generate the DEM export, but then you have a Design file to upload to DroneDeploy.

Exporting Tips:
-If you plan to export a very large DEM, you may want to increase the Grid spacing. The larger Grid Spacing will generate a GeoTIFF with fewer, bigger cells covering the same region.



3. Importing your Design File into DroneDeploy

Follow the Workflow instructions at the top of this article!


Once the file is uploaded, you will receive an on-screen notification that the file is processing. The file will take about 10 - 20 minutes to process. Once the file has finished processing you are ready to start analyzing your Cut/Fill data.


To get the most out of your Cut/Fill data we recommend taking a look at our support guide on the Cut/Fill comparison.


Now you are able to toggle on your design TIF for your Cut/Fill Analysis.

Zoom Levels
The zoom level of your Cut/Fill surface is affected by the resolution of your Geotiff. If you notice you cannot zoom past the Cut/FIll layer after a certain point you will want to upload a higher resolution Geotiff.

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