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National Elevation Data Strategy

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The National Elevation Data Strategy

The National Elevation Data Strategy, led by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), uses state-of-the-art technologies (e.g. LiDAR and satellite imagery) to increase availability and coverage of accurate high-resolution elevation data to support Government of Canada priorities.

NRCan collaborates with different partners (provincial and territorial governments, municipalities and Indigenous communities) to ensure the availability of existing data and to acquire new data across the country. This collaboration is essential for the success of the strategy’s objectives, and is building capacity for better data, science and tools across federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions.

Strategy objectives

Higher resolution across Canada

Increase coverage of high-resolution elevation data across the country to support Government of Canada priorities.

Improve access

Facilitate access to Canada's elevation data by promoting open licenses and offering datasets to the public through Open Maps.

Capitalize on past and future investments

Promote sharing and usage of existing elevation data. Foster collaboration with many partners across the country to acquire new data.

Standardized elevation data

Develop and maintain Federal Guidelines for LiDAR Data Acquisition to ensure consistency across regions, which allows for accurate national analyses. It is continuously updated based on technological and scientific advances. This guide has become the Canadian standard for airborne topographic and topo-bathymetric LiDAR acquisitions across the country.

Elevation data products

Black and white 3D reliefs of the surface of the ground. There are no buildings or trees included.
lack and white 3D reliefs of the surface of the ground. Buildings and trees are included.

Shaded 3D reliefs of a Digital Terrain Model (left image) and a Digital Surface Model (Right image). The DSM includes vegetation and buildings on the surface of the ground. These two examples of derived products are available in both HRDEM and HRDEM Mosaic products.

The National Elevation Data Strategy has led to the creation of many products such as:

High Resolution Digital Elevation Model
The High Resolution Digital Elevation Model (HRDEM) product is derived from LiDAR data and satellite imagery. It shows the topographical features on the Earth's surface at a spatial resolution of 1m to 2m. It includes a digital surface model, a digital terrain model when generated from LiDAR data, and data derived from these models. The HRDEM is available on Open Maps.

HRDEM Mosaic
The HRDEM Mosaic product allows users to visualize and interact with the data produced under the strategy. Unlike the HRDEM product in the same series, where data is separated and distributed by each acquisition project, the mosaic provide a single, continuous representation of data from the Strategy. Fast and efficient dissemination of the mosaic is possible through the Data Cube.

Automatically extracted buildings
This data layer delineates building footprints that are automatically extracted from airborne LiDAR data, high-resolution optical imagery or other sources. The product includes information such as elevation and minimum and maximum building heights. The data is available on Open Maps.

LiDAR point clouds
This product contains point clouds from various airborne LiDAR acquisition projects conducted in Canada. The URL links of each point cloud file can be downloaded, read, visualized and/or used directly in software that has Cloud Optimized Point Cloud (COPC) file capabilities (Ex. QGIS v3.26 and more recent).

Data coverage highlights

Highlights of the current results of the National Elevation Data Strategy include:

  • Integrated 1,034,000 km2 of airborne LiDAR data covering 95 of Canada’s 100 largest cities.
  • The data covers areas where over 92% of Canada’s population lives (about 36.6 million Canadians).
  • 4.6 million km2 of elevation data derived from satellite imagery were integrated in the North. This data comes from the ArcticDEM project (external link, only available in English) and was corrected to meet Canadian standards. The source data was provided by the Polar Geospatial Center under NSF-OPP grants 1043681, 1559691 and 1542736.
  • Automatically extracted over 9.6 million building footprints from LiDAR data.
  • Made over 130,000 km2 of LiDAR data available in the LiDAR Point Clouds product. These datasets were acquired by NRCan or by partners funded through NRCan.
A map of Canada illustrating the current coverage status of elevation data acquired by all levels of government.

A map of Canada illustrating the current coverage status of elevation data acquired by all levels of government. LiDAR projects represented in green have been integrated into the Strategy. Near-shore bathymetric lidar data acquired by Fisheries and Oceans Canada are not shown on this map.

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