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I want to be able to draw some terrain like in the picture attached(minus the aircraft) and have the XYZ Cartesian coordinates of the points of the terrain returned to me. I need the data for experimental purposes and DEM files from NASA are not in XYZ format. Is there any software to help me do this?

  • What format are DEM files in?
    – Natsfan
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 14:26
  • Do you want real data? Or just data based on whatever you draw and your own definition of x,y,z...
    – Natsfan
    Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 18:57

1 Answer 1


What you need is a Geographic Information System (GIS) such as QGIS, (Quantum GIS), possibly with the GRASS plug-ins.

QGIS is:

  • A cross-platform free and open-source desktop geographic information system
  • GNU GPL licenced
  • Can import data in a number of formats.


  • Geographic Resources Analysis Support System
  • Free and open-source software
  • Cross Platform
  • under the GNU General Public License
  • Adds a large number of import formats
  • Also has command line/shell interfaces

GRASS GIS contains over 350 modules to render maps and images on monitor and paper; manipulate raster and vector data including vector networks; process multispectral image data; and create, manage, and store spatial data

You will have some learning to do but there are active and helpful online communities available.

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