WorldDEM Urban Footprint

Mapping Human Settlements Globally

We live in a dynamic and urbanising world. People move, megacities of unimaginable proportions are developing rapidly. Currently, more than half of the world’s population live in cities. Cities have always been similar to living organisms – they grow, impact their surroundings and are influenced by their environment, they experience good and bad fortunes and sometimes can disappear entirely from the screen. Hazards such as volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, cyclones, floods, and droughts may be more destructive in areas that have undergone urbanisation. Accordingly, cities must constantly adapt to changing environmental conditions and political and social circumstances.

UK-DMC2 Satellite Image - Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

 WorldDEM Urban Footprint (orange) on a UK-DMC2 image - Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

A good understanding of the evolution of human settlements is key to developing strategies to assure sustainable urban development and improved community resilience.

WorldDEM Urban Footprint – What is in it for you?

A reliable global reference layer about the presence of human settlements and urban structures is the basis for

  • the mapping of human settlements and the analysis of settlement patterns,
  • regional statistics and population distribution,
  • the monitoring of urban sprawl, hot-spots like urban development areas & global megacity development,
  • environmental studies,
  • exposure mapping in hazard modelling,
  • modelling the potential effects of climate change on human settlements,

to derive conclusions and strategies on how to deal with global change, climate change, natural disasters, geo-risks, political conflicts, access to resources, poverty, international humanitarian crises, carbon emissions, environmental threats and risks to our ecosystem induced by the impact of human intervention, and the need of making energy production sustainable.

What is behind?


© DLR e.V. 2017, Distribution Airbus Defence and Space GmbH

In order to confront these environmental consequences of urbanisation and urban expansion, we need maps of human settlement that are global, reliable, and of adequate spatial resolution. WorldDEM Urban Footprint is the truly-global mapping of settlements with unprecedented spatial resolution of 0.4 arcsec (~12 m). It is a homogeneous global binary mask of settlement areas and urban structures. It reflects man-made features with vertical structural components including buildings and near-by infrastructure elements such as bridges, dams and towers. Flat features like paved roads, squares, and runways are not included.

The quality-assured WorldDEM Urban Footprint maps could serve as the basis for vulnerability assessments, improving both the preparations for and the responses to natural disasters. It is the most detailed urban settlement layer available globally (includes areas North and South of 60° and the equatorial belt).

How much of the Earth’s surface is covered by settlements? Where are these? How much and how fast are settlements growing? Where are they growing most? Try WorldDEM Urban Footprint as an input to your analysis to find the answers!

Contact Us to get Your Estimate

WorldDEM Urban Footprint