‘The king’ of elevation data in Australia, ELVIS

By on 9 August, 2017

A section of the Murray River as featured in ELVIS. Source: Geoscience Australia. (Click to enlarge)


It has now been over a year since the launch of Australia’s best named data collection, ELVIS.

Short for Elevation Information System, ELVIS was launched by Geoscience Australia in March 2016 to make it easier for all Australians to access elevation datasets in an open, free and easily accessible environment.

Coincidentally, next week on Wednesday the 16 August 2017, the world will commemorate forty years since the passing of the “king of rock and roll” himself, Elvis Presley.

Simon Costello, the Head of National Location Information Branch at Geoscience Australia spoke to Spatial Source to reflect on the success of the reinvented ELVIS service and how in one year it has been able to deliver more data than it could in the previous eight years.

ELVIS was launched by Geoscience Australia in 2016 to replace the existing National Elevation Data Framework (NEDF) and to open access to elevation datasets to a wider user base. With the online ELVIS portal, users can now easily download the continent-wide elevation data. With licensing under Creative Commons there is no financial commitment or limit to the amount of data accessed. As expected, supporting open data like this saw an upsurge in the number of downloads.

With ELVIS, users can now easily download the continent-wide elevation data.


“The roll-out of ELVIS reduced Geoscience Australia’s infrastructure costs for elevation data by 80 per cent,” said Simon Costello. “Additionally, ELVIS automated workflows have reduced the delivery time by 90 per cent and increased delivery capability by 1000 per cent.”

“This significant increase in efficiency meant that in ELVIS’s first year of operation Geoscience Australia was able to deliver more data than it could in the past eight years.”

The introduction of ELVIS also means that Geoscience Australia can now work interactively and collaboratively with its data users. ELVIS allows users to quickly explore and interrogate datasets, and provides users with data which can be date stamped to support their decision making.

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A shaded relief view of Australia’s capital, Canberra. Source: Geoscience Australia. (Click to enlarge)

State governments are now collaborating with Geoscience Australia to utilise the ELVIS infrastructure as a way to meet their needs to build customised platforms. For example, Geoscience Australia has collaborated with New South Wales Spatial Services to build the Foundation Spatial Data Framework portal (FSDF). Together they have delivered high resolution information including point clouds and one metre digital elevation models, with the aim of having all NSW elevation data accessible via the FSDF portal by June 2018.

How ELVIS was created

ELVIS sources data from government agencies at the best available resolution for an area. There is consistent coverage over the entirety of Australia with the 1 second Digital Elevation Model (DEM), which translates to approximately 30 metre resolution on the ground. However, significant areas of the country have been covered with much higher resolution and higher accuracy data through LiDAR and photogrammetry. Where possible these are available and are used to derive finer scale DEMs, right down to 1 metre in some areas.

Higher resolution data was collected through LiDAR and photogrammetry capture. Source: Geoscience Australia.


For readers of this website, a key question is one of accuracy. The source datasets are point clouds that have been captured consistent with the Australian ICSM LiDAR Acquisition Specifications with a fundamental vertical accuracy of at least 0.30m and horizontal accuracy of at least 0.80m.

However, the finer resolutions datasets also have finer accuracy. The 1m DEM, for example, has a vertical accuracy of 15cm and a horizontal accuracy of 45cm in most areas.

The digital infrastructure for ELVIS is made up of data storage in Amazon Cloud, a data transformer based on FME software also in the cloud, and a user interface based on open source mapping software.

Where to from here?

Asked which applications ELVIS is being used for, Costello had an entire list: “Agriculture; Dam building; Education and research; Environmental; Infrastructure engineering; Mining; State government and local councils; Urban and rural road design; and Inundation Modelling.”

“Elevation data is used across all aspects of the natural and built environment, economy and society and can be applied to many areas to deliver improved outcomes,” said Costello. “The future for the ELVIS infrastructure is to deliver a range of services which support open access to the Foundation Spatial Datasets for off-line use for data downloads.”

It appears this kind of spatial transformation will not be limited only to elevation. According to Costello, the efficiencies and improvements achieved through ELVIS are now being transferred into other foundational datasets, including surface water, place names and bathymetry.

Editor’s note: The article was amended on 10 August 2017 to state that 16 August 2017 marks forty years since the passing of Elvis Presley, not fifty years. 

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