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  • Elevation Modeling

    MDA is a leading producer and supplier of elevation products, including Digital Elevation Models (DEM) and Ortho Rectified Images, for a variety of applications.

    Mount Merapi DSM
    MDA regularly produces RADARSAT?2-derived DEMs, including both Digital Surface Models (DSM) and “bare earth” Digital Terrain Models (DTM). Our experience in the on-time and on-budget delivery of over 2,500,000 km2 of DEMs since 2009 means clients can be confident that we will deliver quality products in the required timeframe.

    Our DEM (DSM/DTM) production team has successfully delivered millions of square kilometres of DSMs, DTMs and Orthorectified Radar Images (ORRI) to customers around the world. MDA has a fully operational production line capable of producing up to 50,000 km2 of DSMs and ORRI every week, and an additional capacity to triple throughput, as required. Our development of proprietary tools and workflows means that we can deliver DEMs using RADARSAT?2 data that significantly exceed the quality that is typically achievable with COTS software.

    To meet different project needs, we offer two levels of DEM products:

    Standard DEM: Ideally suited for national-scale elevation mapping at 1:50,000 scale or for broad area applications such as state-level disaster management planning.

    High Accuracy DEM: Developed to support high accuracy requirements such as 1:25,000 scale elevation

    DSM Specifications


    Multi-Look Fine (MLF)

    Wide Ultra-Fine (WUF)


    8 m to 10 m, depending on terrain

    6 m to 8 m, depending on terrain





    Typically under 10 m

    Typically 6 m


    1/3 arc seconds (approx. 6 m)

    1/5 arc seconds (approx. 6 m)


    1 degree x 1 degree “tiles”
    (approximately 12,348 km2 at the equator)

    ¼ degree x ¼ degree “map sheets” (approximately 772 km2 at the equator)


    GeoTiff format WGS84 Datum, Geodetic coordinate (lat/long), 32 bit float.


    Product specification, water body shape file, small island shape file, quality report, raw RADARSAT?2 metadata files for all input images used to create the DEM


    • Lakes greater than 200 m flattened
    • Rivers greater than 75 m flattened
    • Oceans flattened to 0 m mean sea level
    • Surface hydrology enforced: River banks and ocean shoreline confirmed above water line to ensure water flows correctly
    • Spikes and wells manually interpolated to surrounding land
    • Bridges removed
    • Dams maintained
    • Piers and dock greater than 100 m maintained as land, smaller removed
    • Adjacent tile edges confirmed to be identical, seamless data verified

    DEM Archive

    In addition to developing new DEMs, MDA provides access to a DEM archive of more than 2.5M km2, with the majority of the archive made up of Standard DEMs. DEMs from the archive are more economical and can be delivered within days of order. The minimum size for Archive DEMs is 1,500 km2 for Standard DEMs and 1,000 km2 for High Accuracy DEMs. The MDA DEM Archive is continually growing, and can be used in a variety of applications.

    Made-To-Order with the Latest Data

    MDA produces customized acquisition plans over the client’s area of interest in order to acquire SAR stereo pairs with the most appropriate set of incidence angles and the most current acquisition dates possible. This guarantees that the elevation models will portray the terrain as it is at contract time.

    Rapid Acquisition, Regardless of Cloud Cover

    The weather-independent nature of C-band SAR coupled with the excellent reliability record of the RADARSAT-2 mission allows for rapid acquisition of the elevation models input data. This not only saves time but enables accurate planning of activities such as fieldwork, image processing and stereo model editing, as the operations schedule can be optimized to efficient use of software and human resources.

    Rapid Production by an Experienced Team

    MDA’s industry-leading DEM production process employs both COTS and MDA proprietary software, algorithms and workflow. Both management and production teams benefit from decades of DEM generation experience, ?including technical heritage beginning in the 90’s with RADARSAT-1-based DEM generation. MDA can currently produce 50,000 km2 / week of DEMs and Orthorectified Images (ORIs).

    Cost Effective, Highly Accurate Solutions

    MDA provides our customers with a very cost-effective pricing model, as our DEM services are supported by MDA’s ownership of RADARSAT-2. MDA’s DEM prices are very competitive when compared to other solutions in the same accuracy range. With three different accuracies, we meet the needs of a wide range of map scales.