Author Archives: underdark

QGIS 3 has a new feature: reports! In short, reports are the good old Altas feature on steroids.

Let’s have a look at an example project:

To start a report, go to Project | New report. The report window is quite similar to what we’ve come to expect from Print Composer (now called Layouts). The most striking difference is the report panel at the left side of the screen.

When a new report is created, the center of the report window is empty. To get started, we need to select the report entry in the panel on the left. By selecting the report entry, we get access to the Include report header and Include report footer checkboxes. For example, pressing the Edit button next to the Include report header option makes it possible to design the front page (or pages) of the report:

Similarly, pressing Edit next to the Include report footer option enables us to design the final pages of our report.

Now for the content! We can populate our report with content by clicking on the plus button to add a report section or a “field group”. A field group is basically an Atlas. For example, here I’ve added a field group that creates one page for each country in the Natural Earth countries layer that I have loaded in my project:

Note that in the right panel you can see that the Controlled by report option is activated for the map item. (This is equivalent to a basic Atlas setup in QGIS 2.x.)

With this setup, we are ready to export our report. Report | Export Report as PDF creates a 257 page document:

As configured, the pages are ordered by country name. This way, for example, Australia ends up on page 17.

Of course, it’s possible to add more details to the individual pages. In this example, I’ve added an overview map in Robinson projection (to illustrate again that it is now possible to mix different CRS on a map).

Happy QGIS mapping!


If you have already designed a few maps in QGIS, you are probably aware of a long-standing limitation: Print Composer maps were limited to the project’s coordinate reference system (CRS). It was not possible to have maps with different CRS in a composition.

Note how I’ve been using the past tense? 

Rejoice! QGIS 3 gets rid of this limitation. Print Composer has been replaced by the new Layout dialog which – while very similar at first sight – offers numerous improvements. But today, we’ll focus on projection handling.

For example, this is a simple project using WGS84 as its project CRS:

In the Layouts dialog, each map item now has a CRS property. For example, the overview map is set to World_Robinson while the main map is set to ETRS-LAEA:

As you can see, the red overview frame in the upper left corner is curved to correctly represent the extent of the main map.

Of course, CRS control is not limited to maps. We also have full freedom to add map grids in yet another CRS:

This opens up a whole new level of map design possibilities.

Bonus fact: Another great improvement related to projections in QGIS3 is that Processing tools are now aware of layers with different CRS and will actively reproject layers. This makes it possible, for example, to intersect two layers with different CRS without any intermediate manual reprojection steps.

Happy QGIS mapping!

Data Plotly is a new plugin by Matteo Ghetta for QGIS3 which makes it possible to draw D3 graphs of vector layer attribute values. This is a huge step towards making QGIS a one stop shop for data exploration!

Data Plotly adds a new panel where graphs can be configured and viewed. Currently, there are nine different plot types:

The following examples use tree cadastre data from the city of Linz, Austria.

Scatter plots with both two and three variables are supported. After picking the attributes you want to visualize, press “Create plot”.

If you change some settings and press “Create plot” again, by default, the new graph will be plotted on top of the old one. If you don’t want that to happen, press “Clean plot canvas” before creating a new plot.

The plots are interactive and display more information on mouse over, for example, the values of a box plot:

Even aggregate expressions are supported! Here’s the mean height of trees by type (deciduous L or coniferous N):

For more examples, I strongly recommend to have a look at the plugin home page.

In this post, I want to show how to visualize building block data published by the city of Vienna in 3D using QGIS. This data is interesting due to its level of detail. For example, here you can see the Albertina landmark in the center of Vienna:

an this is the corresponding 3D visualization, including flying roof:

To enable 3D view in QGIS 2.99 (soon to be released as QGIS 3), go to View | New 3D Map View.

Viennese building data ( is provided as Shapefiles. (Saber Razmjooei recently published a similar post using data from New York City in ESRI Multipatch format.) You can download a copy of the Shapefile and a DEM for the same area from my dropbox.  The Shapefile contains the following relevant attributes for 3D visualization

  • O_KOTE: absolute building height measured to the roof gutter(?) (“absolute Gebäudehöhe der Dachtraufe”)
  • U_KOTE: absolute height of the lower edge of the building block if floating above ground (“absolute Überbauungshöhe unten”)
  • HOEHE_DGM: absolute height of the terrain (“absolute Geländehöhe”)
  • T_KOTE: lowest point of the terrain for the given building block (“tiefster Punkt des Geländes auf den Kanten der Gebäudeteilfläche”)

To style the 3D view in QGIS 3, I set height to “U_KOTE” and extrusion to


both with a default value of 0 which is used if the field or expression is NULL:

The altitude clamping setting defines how height values are interpreted. Absolute clamping is perfect for the Viennese data since all height values are provided as absolute measures from 0. Other options are “relative” and “terrain” which add given elevation values to the underlying terrain elevation. According to the source of qgs3dutils:

  AltClampAbsolute,   //!< Z_final = z_geometry
  AltClampRelative,   //!< Z_final = z_terrain + z_geometry
  AltClampTerrain,    //!< Z_final = z_terrain

The gray colored polygon style shown in the map view on the top creates the illusion of shadows in the 3D view:


Beyond that, this example also features elevation model data which can be configured in the 3D View panel. I found it helpful to increase the terrain tile resolution (for example to 256 px) in order to get more detailed terrain renderings:

Overall, the results look pretty good. There are just a few small glitches in the rendering, as well as in the data. For example, the kiosik in front of Albertina which you can also see in the StreetView image, is lacking height information and therefore we can only see it’s “shadow” in the 3D rendering.

So far, I found 3D rendering performance very good. It works great on my PC with Nvidia graphics card. On my notebook with Intel Iris graphics, I’m unfortunately still experiencing crashes which I hope will be resolved in the future.

Many of the topics I’ve covered in recent “Movement data in GIS” posts, have also been discussed at this year’s FOSS4G. Here’s a list of videos for you to learn more about the OGC Moving Features standard, modelling AIS data with FOSS, and more:

1. Introduction to the OGC Moving Features standard presented by Kyoung-Sook Kim from the Artificial Intelligence Research Center, Japan:

Another Perspective View of Cesium for OGC Moving Features from FOSS4G Boston 2017 on Vimeo.

2. Modeling AIS data using GDAL & PostGIS presented by Morten Aronsen from the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment:

Density mapping of ship traffic using FOSS4G in C# .NET from FOSS4G Boston 2017 on Vimeo.

3. 3D visualization of movement data from videos presented by Anna Petrasova from the Center for Geospatial Analysis, North Carolina State University:

Visualization and analysis of active transportation patterns derived from public webcams from FOSS4G Boston 2017 on Vimeo.

There are also a ton of Docker presentations on the FOSS4G2017 Vimeo channel, if you liked “Docker basics with Geodocker GeoServer”.

Read more: is a great source for AIS data along the US coast. Their data formats and tools though are less open. Luckily, GDAL – and therefore QGIS – can read ESRI File Geodatabases (.gdb). also offer a Track Builder script that creates lines out of the broadcast points. (It can also join additional information from the vessel and voyage layers.) We could reproduce the line creation step using tools such as Processing’s Point to path but this post will show how to create PostGIS trajectories instead.

First, we have to import the points into PostGIS using either DB Manager or Processing’s Import into PostGIS tool:

Then we can create the trajectories. I’ve opted to create a materialized view:

The first part of the query creates a temporary table called ptm (short for PointM). This step adds time stamp information to each point. The second part of the query then aggregates these PointMs into trajectories of type LineStringM.

 WITH ptm AS (
   SELECT b.mmsi,
       date_part('epoch', b.basedatetime)
     ) AS pt,
     b.basedatetime t
   FROM ais.broadcast b
   ORDER BY mmsi, basedatetime
 SELECT row_number() OVER () AS id,
   st_makeline( AS st_makeline,
   min(ptm.t) AS min_t,
   max(ptm.t) AS max_t
 FROM ptm
 GROUP BY ptm.mmsi

The trajectory start and end times (min_t and max_t) are optional but they can help speed up future queries.

One of the advantages of creating trajectory lines is that they render many times faster than the original points.

Of course, we end up with some artifacts at the border of the dataset extent. (Files are split by UTM zone.) Trajectories connect the last known position before the vessel left the observed area with the position of reentry. This results, for example, in vertical lines which you can see in the bottom left corner of the above screenshot.

With the trajectories ready, we can go ahead and start exploring the dataset. For example, we can visualize trajectory speed and/or create animations:

Purple trajectory segments are slow while green segments are faster

We can also perform trajectory analysis, such as trajectory generalization:

This is a first proof of concept. It would be great to have a script that automatically fetches the datasets for a specified time frame and list of UTM zones and loads them into PostGIS for further processing. In addition, it would be great to also make use of the information in the vessel and voyage tables, thus splitting up trajectories into individual voyages.

Read more:

There are multiple ways to model trajectory data. This post takes a closer look at the OGC® Moving Features Encoding Extension: Simple Comma Separated Values (CSV). This standard has been published in 2015 but I haven’t been able to find any reviews of the standard (in a GIS context or anywhere else).

The following analysis is based on the official OGC trajcectory example at The header consists of two lines: the first line provides some meta information while the second defines the CSV columns. The data model is segment based. That is, each line describes a trajectory segment with at least two coordinate pairs (or triplets for 3D trajectories). For each segment, there is a start and an end time which can be specified as absolute or relative (offset) values:

@stboundedby,urn:x-ogc:def:crs:EPSG:6.6:4326,2D,50.23 9.23,50.31 9.27,2012-01-17T12:33:41Z,2012-01-17T12:37:00Z,sec
@columns,mfidref,trajectory,state,xsd:token,”type code”,xsd:integer
a, 10,150,11.0 2.0 12.0 3.0,walking,1
b, 10,190,10.0 2.0 11.0 3.0,walking,2
a,150,190,12.0 3.0 10.0 3.0,walking,2
c, 10,190,12.0 1.0 10.0 2.0 11.0 3.0,vehicle,1

Let’s look at the first data row in detail:

  • a … trajectory id
  • 10 … start time offset from 2012-01-17T12:33:41Z in seconds
  • 150 … end time offset from 2012-01-17T12:33:41Z in seconds
  • 11.0 2.0 12.0 3.0 … trajectory coordinates: x1, y1, x2, y2
  • walking …  state
  • 1… type code

My main issues with this approach are

  1. They missed the chance to use WKT notation to make the CSV easily readable by existing GIS tools.
  2. As far as I can see, the data model requires a regular sampling interval because there is no way to store time stamps for intermediate positions along trajectory segments. (Irregular intervals can be stored using segments for each pair of consecutive locations.)

In the common GIS simple feature data model (which is point-based), the same data would look something like this:


The main issue here is that there has to be some application logic that knows how to translate from points to trajectory. For example, trajectory a changes from walking1 to walking2 at 2012-01-17T12:36:11Z but we have to decide whether to store the previous or the following state code for this individual point.

An alternative to the common simple feature model is the PostGIS trajectory data model (which is LineStringM-based). For this data model, we need to convert time stamps to numeric values, e.g. 2012-01-17T12:33:41Z is 1326803621 in Unix time. In this data model, the data looks like this:

a,LINESTRINGM(11.0 2.0 1326803631, 12.0 3.0 1326803771),walking,1
a,LINESTRINGM(12.0 3.0 1326803771, 10.0 3.0 1326803811),walking,2
b,LINESTRINGM(10.0 2.0 1326803631, 11.0 3.0 1326803811),walking,2
c,LINESTRINGM(12.0 1.0 1326803631, 10.0 2.0 1326803771, 11.0 3.0 1326803811),vehicle,1

This is very similar to the OGC data model, with the notable difference that every position is time-stamped (instead of just having segment start and end times). If one has movement data which is recorded at regular intervals, the OGC data model can be a bit more compact, but if the trajectories are sampled at irregular intervals, each point pair will have to be modeled as a separate segment.

Since the PostGIS data model is flexible, explicit, and comes with existing GIS tool support, it’s my clear favorite.

Read more:

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