Skip navigation
All Places > Education > Blog > 2018 > June

The rapid advancement of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) data in society and in programs at universities and even in some secondary schools has led to some amazing tools and data with which to analyze the world.  Esri has a new UAV partner, the good people at Hangar, which operates a very innovative service to fly areas that people request them to.  Hangar recently flew across Kilauea Hawaii and have compiled their 360-degree immersive UAV imagery into a story map.  This makes for an incredibly engaging and rich tool for use in instruction, about human-environment interaction, impact of natural hazards, plate tectonics, current events, and much more.  As an example, see the image I posted here: or below.  I highly encourage you to take a look at this story map, paying particular attention to the house being engulfed in photo # 11. 


UAV images in a Kilauea story map

But that's not all.  Another recent advancement is the announcement of the new Sentinel-2 imagery in ArcGIS Online.  Sentinel-2 is part of Copernicus, the world’s largest single Earth observation program directed by the European Commission in partnership with the European Space Agency. Esri makes the multi-spectral data quickly accessible using ArcGIS Image Server and publishes an image service through the ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World (Living Atlas), hosted on the Amazon Web Services Infrastructure. The service includes all Sentinel-2 imagery going back 14 months, enabling change to be easily reviewed, and is updated every 5 to 7 days.  Incredible! Image analysis can be run directly on the service to create indexes displaying properties such as vegetation health or soil moisture as well as quantifying the changes over time, for better understanding of the environment. 


I added the Sentinel-2 data from ArcGIS Online, zoomed to Kilauea, and rendered the image as Geology with DRA (Dynamic Range Adjustment) which makes use of the SWIR (ShortWave Infrared) bands 1 and 2 – along with blue in the third band.  This only took a few minutes and now I can measure the length of the new lava from that day (in yellow), and make use of the Imagery with Labels or Open Street Map basemaps to determine the homes that are affected.  My students could investigate further to determine exactly which of the homes are shown in the UAV images in the above story map.  The results are shown in the image below.  For more information, see my video on the Hangar Esri UAV story map and my video on the Sentinel-2 data.


A video showing blue flame from methane in this exact rift zone is very compelling and makes for an excellent supplement for the above two resources that I described.  The video is here:  Hawaii volcano: blue flames burn in streets as methane escapes - YouTube .   In addition, this web map contains multiple renderings from a DigitalGlobe WorldView-3 collect on May 19, 2018.  Leveraging the Near Infrared and Short Wave Infrared wavelengths captured by WorldView-3 can not only help to define the lava flow extents but also identify hot spots.  The infrared imagery also helps to peer through smoke that may otherwise occlude the ground.


Update May 2020:   The Kilauea eruptions are now over 14 months old.  Because the image service at present only contains data for the past 14 months, you will need to query on a more recent image where an eruption has occurred somewhere in the world.  These could include the following eruptions:

  • 3 Nov 2019  Kikai, Japan
  • 30 Sep 2019  Shishaldin, Alaska
  • 13 Jan 2020  Fernandina, Galapagos
  • 14 Jan 2020  Reventador, Ecuador
  • 28 April 2020  Krakatau, Indonesia
  • 28 April 2020  Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica


For more eruptions, examine the Smithsonian Institution's Volcanism Bulletin.  Note further that the Sentinel team at Esri is seeking to add all of the archive to the service, not just the past 14 months, so stay tuned on this point. 

Sentinel-2 imagery in ArcGIS Online.

Sentinel-2 imagery rendered as Geology with DRA and filtered for 23 May 2018 in ArcGIS Online. 

For a while we have recommended that the best approach for managing ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise portals, including named users, entitlements, Esri Access, credits, etc., is to enable enterprise logins, commonly referred to as Single Sign On (SSO). So far, the only supported configuration for enterprise logins was using one identity provider (IDP), Shibboleth and Active Directory Federation Services being some of the common ones in academia.   


As of the latest June 2018 release of ArcGIS Online (and the pending ArcGIS Enterprise 10.6.1 release in July), we now support enabling enterprise logins via a federation of identity providers. Identity federation allow users belonging to an existing inter-organizational federation, such as InCommon (United States), SWITCHaai (Switzerland), DFNaai (Germany), and others, to sign in with credentials supported by that federation. Each member organization continues to use their own IDP, but configures an SP (i.e. ArcGIS) to work exclusively within the federation. This is a request we’ve received by quite a few institutions and wanted to document some of the functionality and cases where it may be beneficial.


NOTE: ArcGIS is not joining the InCommon, Switch or DFN federations as a member. Hence, Esri will not be listed as an SP entity.  Rather, ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Enterprise portals will need to be added as a new SP to the federation. This will enable users to share and access their web resources within the federation, and have a seamless login experience. The following SWITCHaai documentation provides an easy to understand explanation and graphic.


  •      Cases where it would be beneficial:
    •      Requirement imposed by institution’s IT/Central Services – many institutions who are InCommon participants have been able to implement enterprise logins configured with one identity provider (IDP), however, some institutions have their own requirements that mandate support for identity federation. With identity federation supported in ArcGIS, now these institutions who have such requirement could proceed with enabling enterprise logins.
    •      Multiple campuses using multiple identity providers (IDP) – for example, three campuses of the same institution using three different Shibboleth instances to provide identification – in these instances, institutions will use identity federation to integrate with their three local Shibboleth installations. This will be an example of identity federation, which is not related to InCommon, SWITCHaai, DNFaai, or other inter-organizational federations.
    •      Potential benefits for users who wish to enable collaboration across and between different educational institutions - for example, if this capability did not exist, and a student/faculty/staff from University X wanted to access resources hosted by University Y, they would need an account from university Y to login to the portal. Therefore, to access resources spread across different, un-federated universities, one would need different login accounts, which complicates both user login experience and user management. Having identity federation will simplify this and allows for a single enterprise ID to be used (as long as the institutions belong to the same federation).
    •      Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) compatibility requirements – LTI being a protocol for various services and service providers to integrate with Learning Management Systems (LMS) – some entities have this requirement to connect LMS with external service tools (i.e. ArcGIS). Since ArcGIS technology provides a teaching and learning environment in education, this new identity federation capability could fulfil such requirements to integrate ArcGIS technology with LMS platforms.


  •      Identity federation setup and user experience:
    •      An institution must be a member of a federation to use this new feature. When administrators and IT staff configure enterprise logins using a federation of identity providers, there are a number of parameters needed, including URL of the federation (Federation Discovery Service URL), Metadata Aggregate URL, and Certificate to validate the aggregate metadata.
    •      When identity federation is configured, the same option applies as when using a single IDP – users will be able to join automatically or by invitation. When multiple institutions are members of the federation, it may be recommended to use the “Upon invitation from an administrator” option. This means that users from a federation must be explicitly invited, i.e. in the ArcGIS Online or  ArcGIS Enterprise portal settings, an administrator would go to Invite Members, and use the option “Invite members to join using their enterprise logins”. Then users would be able to have the same user login experience, using their respective institution’s enterprise credentials. Sharing of content is protected by the existing ArcGIS security model and groups are leveraged to restrict access. Note, SAML-based group membership is not yet supported with identity federation.

  •      Once the ArcGIS Online organization is registered as a member of the federation, the login experience is the same on the initial login page (when the user chooses either to login using an enterprise account or ArcGIS account). If identity federation is configured, the organization is a member of a federation of multiple members, what needs to happen is the federation needs to identify the home organization, i.e. where you are from, and a user will be prompted to a centralized Discovery Service Page, on which they will be asked which university/entity they belong to.





 Further feedback is welcome!

This year, we will be streaming the world's largest GIS gathering, the UC Plenary live on Facebook. This will be an incredible way for you to tap into the energy and atmosphere of this international event of 18,000 even if you cannot be physically at the San Diego Convention Center during the event.  The plenary will take place on Monday 9 July 2018 from 8:30am to 3:30pm Pacific Daylight Time. 


This all-day Plenary Session starts off with Esri’s vision, software roadmap, demos of winning workflows, transformation stories from peers, and inspirational keynotes.  If you’re unable to attend Esri UC in person, click the “Going” button on the Facebook link to receive updates and be a part of it.  Check out the plenary agenda starting here:  and follow us here:  


If you can attend in person, we have thousands of hours of workshops, sessions, and demos lined up to help you improve your skills and stay on top of evolving technology. More than 300 exhibitors will share the latest software, hardware, and solutions.   Register Here:  Registration Rates and Details.   


Watch the Esri User Conference plenary in Live Stream!  Mon 9 July 2018

Ever since Rajinder Naji, Dr Dawn Wright, and my other Esri colleagues announced that elevation services were in ArcGIS Online, I have been wanting to use them in Pro not just for visualization, but analysis.   More than elevation services are now available--land cover, for example, is another.  I recently began using these services and am quite pleased with the results.  I am using them in some lessons I have written where students analyze wildfires in grasslands, the optimal site for cell phone towers, and suitable lands for specific types of agriculture. Moreover, I believe this advancement represents an excellent example of the paradigm shift that GIS is in the midst of, namely, from desktop to cloud, including Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Data-as-a-Service.  No longer do you need to follow the standard workflow of the past two decades, where you download data that you need to your local device where you then perform the analysis.  You can access the services online and use them inside ArcGIS Pro.  Advantages are many:  You do not have to spend your valuable time searching for, downloading, clipping, and reprojecting pieces of data, which took many steps as shown in our exercises associated with the Esri Press GIS Guide to Public Domain Data book.  Furthermore, you do not have to store large data sets on your local device.  Rather, you can stream the data in for your desired study area and thus have more time for investigating, analyzing, concluding, and publishing your results. 


Elevation data supports numerous GIS applications ranging from deriving slope and aspect, stream delineation, cut and fill analysis, viewshed analysis, orthorectification of aerial photography or satellite imagery, rendering 3D visualizations, creating relief maps, and for various types of analysis and visualizations.  The elevation and land cover services are available for use within the ArcGIS Online platform, and are part of the Living Atlas. You can access the entire collection of layers along with geo-processing tools from within the Elevation Layers Group on ArcGIS Online.  Access to these global layers is free and does not consume any credits; all you need is an ArcGIS Organizational account.  The "old paradigm" of downloading and using data locally still has its place, and it will be around for some time to come.  But that's not the only option these days.  Moreover, I suspect that more raster data sets will be added in the future to the Living Atlas, and as it is added, the streaming method will become even more attractive in the future.  


If you want to simply visualize elevation, slope, aspect, and land cover, for example, use Add Data > Portal > Living Atlas > search for these layers and add them to your map view in ArcGIS Pro.  To do analysis on land cover, elevation, slope, or aspect, you need to select such items as “terrain:  slope in degrees” – and “aspect” – not the map, but the service.  Also important is to use Environments in the raster calculator (or any other geoprocessing tool that you are using) to set the analysis extent to your display, a watershed, or some other specific area so you’re not analyzing the whole country or the whole world!.  See screens below (my study area is the wonderful terrain in western Colorado).

 Raster map service from the cloud in ArcGIS Pro.

The results of my raster calculator on streaming terrain--the thin yellow areas are where the slopes are greater than 50 degrees.

Land cover data streaming from the Living Atlas, with shrub/scrub in yellow from Raster Calculator tool.

Results after Raster Calculator analysis was applied to the streaming NLCD Land Cover data, with shrub/scrub land cover shown in yellow.


Choosing raster map service from the cloud for use in ArcGIS Pro.

Searching for Terrain Slope in Degrees and Terrain Aspect (direction of slope) from the Living Atlas, using the Add Data tool in ArcGIS Pro.


For more details, see my video on this topic.  Enjoy the new paradigm!  Please share your reactions in the comments below.

Special thanks to our presenters in our Curriculum web meeting, and for the excellent discussion!! Recording and slides are now on Box.


  • Bill Slocumb (NC State University)
  • Rama Sivakumar (Georgia Tech)
  • Stephanie Deitrick (Arizona State University)


What was discussed:


  • Brief overview of programs, and respective discussion of Web GIS/Programming/Data Systems
  • Specifics on what is taught in courses
  • Overall experiences


Thank you Bill, Siva and Stephanie!

I have used The Internet Archive ( for many things over the years, from archiving multimedia that I created for my story maps to looking up information on historical web pages through their Wayback Machine, (as well as listening to some old wonderful sound recordings) and through those efforts became aware of the wealth of information on the site.   And when I say wealth, I truly mean enormous - 279 billion web pages, 11 million books and texts, 4 million audio recordings (including 160,000 live concerts), 3 million videos (including 1 million Television News programs), 1 million images, and100,000 software programs. But did you know that The Internet Archive also houses some geospatial data?  The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that has existed since 1996, states that its mission is to "provide Universal Access to All Knowledge," so it makes sense that some geospatial data for the public good is there.


Let's focus here on the USGS topographic map data on The Internet Archive, also known as Digital Raster Graphics (DRGs).  Start here for a list of these maps by state, and then underneath each state, a variety of search options are available.  It isn't the most intuitive unless you know the specific map name that you are looking for, so a topographic map index may still come in handy; a scanned version of these is not easy to come by, but one such archive is here.  Formats include GeoTIFF, essential for use in a GIS.



Interface on The Internet Archive for USGS Digital Raster Graphics. 


While I still find the interface on the other main DRG archive, LibreMap, to be a bit easier to use, LibreMap is not maintained any longer, and is starting to return some errors during certain searches.  The Esri USGS Historical Map Explorer, and the USGS TopoView, which I reviewed here, is more modern approach to obtaining topographic maps, with the added benefit of historical editions.  USGS topographic maps are part of the set of basemaps available inside ArcGIS Online as data services, which is increasingly part of modern GIS workflows, rather than downloading the data and using it locally.  Still another archive is that from Historical Aerials, which I reviewed here. 



A section of my all-time favorite USGS topographic map, for Mitchell Indiana, simply because of the intricacies of the depression contours and disappearing streams in this magnificent karst landscape. 

Past and future MOOC students attending the Esri User Conference in San Diego are invited to our very first MOOC MeetUp on Tuesday July 10 from 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM in the convention center room 25 A.


- Get the latest information on the MOOC program

- Meet fellow MOOCers and MOOC instructors

- Provide feedback and ideas

- Play games

- Win prizes


Please come by! No RSVP needed!

Results are in for the 2018 ArcGIS Online Competition for High School and Middle School students! Congratulations to the national winners and honorable mentions at both levels, and to the 34 other state winners competing for the grand prize -- a trip to the 2018 Esri Education Summit. Congratulations also to the 101 other awardees who, just like the state and national winners, each earned $100.


2018 Competition participation

The displays and documentation of all 137 awardees are visible to the public, via an ArcGIS Online Map Viewer Presentation, with six frames. For both HS and MS, the national winner and honorable mention projects were very good, about very different topics, with very different approaches, so see both their Story Maps and documentation. The other state winners at each level reinforce the breadth of topics and approaches available to anyone.


2018 HS Winner

The competition did not require teachers to allocate significant in-class time or instruction, although some did provide it. With the array of instructional resources freely available, students can learn a lot on their own, but they need that first exposure to the technology, and need an account with which to explore, build, save, and share. Esri offers all schools and clubs free instructional accounts, plus lots of classroom-ready content and project starters, and links to local mentors (see Map#4) and instructional opportunities (see Maps #6 and #7), so there is no reason for any student to be left out.


2018 MS Winner

In 2018, 28 states participated. In the 22 states receiving entries, 126 came from 46 high schools, and 180 entries came from 41 middle schools. Of the 306 total submissions nationally, a third happened in just one state -- Minnesota. Think what students will show when all states actively support students investigating and reporting on their world, thinking critically and making a difference, using GIS. Start working now to support the 2019 ArcGIS Online Competition for HS+MS Students!

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: