This article examines contemporary projects and technologies in urban planning. Projects such as GEOURBAN, UN-Habitat and others are examples of such programmes. The article describes how these projects use remotely sensed data to improve and manage urban infrastructure.

For the general user, the article will be useful as it gives an idea of how modern technology is improving life in the city. It will also help users understand what projects and technologies are being used in their city and how they affect their lives.

For someone close to planning, the article can be useful as it provides information about new technologies, projects. that can help improve the city infrastructure and make it more sustainable. It will also make it clear that the use of Earth remote sensing data can help in planning and managing urban infrastructure.

Thus, the article provides useful information for a wide audience that is interested in urban planning and modern technologies.


Urban planning is the process of developing and implementing strategies and plans aimed at improving the use of urban areas, ensuring economic development, and enhancing the quality of life for city dwellers. Urban planning may involve the regulation of land and building rules, the development of transportation systems, population distribution, economic development, environmental protection, the creation of spaces for citizen interaction, and much more. Urban planning plays a crucial role in creating sustainable cities that can be socially, environmentally, and economically resilient. It helps maintain a balance between economic growth and the quality of life for urban residents and addresses challenges related to climate change, population growth, and economic globalization.

Contemporary global urban planning projects are focused on utilizing new technologies and innovative approaches to enhance the urban environment and improve the quality of life for city dwellers. They include the use of Earth remote sensing data, big data analytics, the Internet of Things, and other technologies to manage urban infrastructure, enhance security, improve transportation accessibility, and reduce negative environmental impact.


Remote Sensing Methods in Urban Planning

Aerial Photography is a method of obtaining images of the Earth's surface using cameras mounted on aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicles. These images can be used to create maps and plans of cities, which can be beneficial in urban planning.

Aerial photography can assist in urban planning in the following areas:

  • Studying the terrain to identify its features, such as relief, rivers, lakes, forests, etc. This can help urban planners determine how to use the land and what measures need to be taken to protect it.
  • Planning transportation infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, railways, etc. Images can help identify the most efficient routes and locations for building new roads and bridges.
  • Urban development planning, such as constructing new buildings and residential complexes. Images can help identify the most suitable locations for construction and understand how new buildings will fit into the environment.
  • Assessing environmental risks, such as air and water pollution, hazardous waste, etc. Images can help identify pollution sources and assist urban planners in taking measures to reduce risks.


Satellite Remote Sensing (SRS) plays a crucial role in urban planning by providing valuable data and information for analysis and decision-making. Here are some examples of using SRS in urban planning:

  • SRS allows the creation of detailed maps of urban development, which can be used for planning new projects and updating existing ones. For example, it helps determine the boundaries of urban areas, assess population density, and identify problem areas, such as areas with low levels of amenities.
  • Monitoring changes in urban development. Satellites can detect illegal construction, changes in land zoning, and unauthorized alterations in urban development. Such monitoring helps ensure compliance with planning regulations and increases the efficiency of urban resource management.
  • Assessing ecological sustainability, satellite images can identify green areas, assess air and water quality, and identify natural resources and environmental threats. Such data can aid in developing sustainable development plans for cities and taking measures to reduce negative environmental impact.
  • Urban planning for projects. Satellite imagery helps determine the most suitable locations for construction, considering factors such as transportation accessibility, existing infrastructure, and environmental conditions.


The use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) in urban planning can be very beneficial. UAVs can be used to collect data on urban infrastructure, land use, transportation systems, residential and commercial development, as well as to assess social and economic conditions in the city.

    • Using UAVs can provide high-quality photos and videos from bird's-eye view, allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of the urban environment and its features. This data can be used to create three-dimensional models of the urban environment, which can be utilized for analysis and urban infrastructure planning.
    • UAVs can also be used to monitor the condition of urban infrastructure such as roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures. This enables the quick detection of damages and issues, such as cracks, deterioration, and other damages, facilitating prompt remedial actions.
    • Additionally, UAVs can be employed to assess the environmental situation in the city, such as monitoring air and water quality, as well as detecting and analyzing environmental pollution.


    The use of remote sensing methods in urban planning can significantly enhance the quality of data and provide more accurate and complete information about the urban environment. This allows for more informed decision-making in urban infrastructure planning, creating more sustainable, safe, and comfortable cities.

    Regardless of the sensing method, all images must meet the same requirements:

    • Resolution. Images must have sufficiently high spatial resolution to provide detailed images of the urban environment, down to 1 meter. This enables the identification of various objects and features, such as buildings, roads, parks, public transportation stops, and other infrastructure elements.
    • Multi-channel. Images should provide information in various spectral ranges (visible and infrared spectra) for the use of different vegetation and other indices. Different indices allow obtaining data on different types of land cover: vegetation, water bodies, soil, and other elements of the urban environment. This ensures the possibility of analyzing and classifying various types of land cover.
    • Temporal frequency. Images must be available at different time periods. This allows tracking changes in the urban environment over time and monitoring various processes, such as city expansion, land use change, changes in building structures, and other factors that may impact urban planning.
    • Image quality. Images must be of high quality with minimal noise, cloud cover, and distortions. Clearer and cleaner images provide more accurate and reliable data interpretation and analysis results.

    Considering these requirements, urban planning using remote sensing can obtain up-to-date and detailed information about the urban environment, helping make more informed decisions regarding the development and improvement of urban infrastructure.

    Project GEOURBAN

    Territorial management is a dynamic process, and the pursuit of efficient and sustainable urban development requires the improvement of methods, exploration of alternative solutions, and the creation of new observation tools using current spatial information about the city. Currently, sources of such information include statistics, geodesy, and cartography. However, the methods used for data processing often lead to relatively coarse spatial and temporal results or are material and labor-intensive.

    The increasing number of remote sensing methods (hereinafter - RS) opens up new opportunities for creating advanced tools that support planning and decision-making for urban territory management by local authorities and provide spatial data about the territory to stakeholders, including urban planners, architects, designers, investors, developers, cadastral engineers, etc. The integration of various data sources and their joint processing enhances the quality and informativeness of results obtained using this data.


    Figure 1. GEOURBAN Methodology

    The GEOURBAN project was created to establish multidimensional scientific cooperation between Russia and the European Union countries and seven associated countries within the ERA.Net-RUS program. To implement the GEOURBAN project, three cities with different typologies were selected as pilot cities: Tyumen (Russia), characterized by a continental climate and dynamic political changes over the past two decades; the Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv (Israel); and the central European city of Basel (Switzerland), where cooperation between Earth observation scientists and urban planners has been established.

    The project's goal is to use comprehensive approaches and unite scientists in the field of Earth observation and urban planners by demonstrating the capabilities of modern monitoring systems to display parameters of urban planning situations and the quality of urban ecology over large areas with a high level of detail.

    GEOURBAN project tasks:

    - Analyze the requirements for RS data, identify sources of this data, and methods of processing for use in the process of managing the development of the territory, using the example of pilot cities;

    - Analyze the potential use of results from space activities in the process of managing territorial development;

    - Select indicators obtained based on RS data reflecting the state of the urban environment;

    - Create a web-oriented information system (hereinafter - IS) to automate the process of calculating indicators and demonstrate the developed IS using pilot cities as examples.

    Key achievements of the first stage of the project:

    - Conducting regular community meetings to identify the needs of prospective users of the IS;

    - Formulating a list of indicators reflecting the quality and development of the urban environment;

    - Obtaining results based on the processing of space activity data and using them to calculate indicators;

    - Developing a prototype of the GEOURBAN IS.


    Figure 2. Surface Imperviousness Percentage for Tyumen
    (RS Satellites - RapidEye and TerraSAR-X)

United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)

The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) are collaborating on the development of the program "Earth Observation Toolkit for Sustainable Cities and Communities." This program aims to assist UN Member States, including cities, in achieving Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): "to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable." It also aligns with the implementation of the New Urban Agenda (NUA) by ensuring the continuous use of Earth observation data and applications.

The program focuses on developing a customizable and continually updated toolkit for integrating Earth observation and geospatial information into the monitoring and reporting processes of cities on the SDG targets and indicators. It leverages contributions from UN Member States and cities.


The toolkit, developed with the involvement of countries and cities, will complement the guidance published by UN-Habitat and will be produced in collaboration with selected regionally representative countries and cities. It will identify needs, data requirements, and provide practical recommendations for using Earth observation and ground-based Earth observation data along with national statistics, socio-economic data, and other ancillary information. This aims to assist countries in monitoring, reporting, and progressing towards achieving SDG 11 and NUA. The program will facilitate knowledge sharing among countries, connecting experiences from different national and sub-national communities and enhancing understanding between technical analysts and decision-makers. It will also contribute to understanding the value of Earth observation data in achieving sustainable development goals and the New Urban Agenda.

Key areas include monitoring urban expansion and density, tracking public transport accessibility, assessing open public spaces and their distribution across urban areas, mapping slums, informal settlements, and inadequate housing conditions, evaluating eco-climatic conditions and spatial typology, as well as urban vulnerabilities and reducing the negative impact of cities on the well-being of the population, including air quality.

This program will help people use Earth observation data to better understand how to improve life in cities. It will use new technologies to quickly obtain data and use it for decision-making. The program will involve countries and cities that will use the toolkit for monitoring, reporting, and planning related to SDG 11, the New Global Urban Agenda, and other priorities related to the urban environment.

A Management Council consisting of selected countries and cities from these countries, UN-Habitat, Earth Observation providers, and representatives of GEO urban activities will meet (in-person or remotely) as needed and consult between meetings. Participating countries and cities will be used as examples and demonstration projects to show how the toolkit is used to support their monitoring, reporting, and planning for SDG 11, the New Global Urban Agenda, and other urban environment-related priorities.

The program will accelerate the use of Earth observation data and tools at the city, national, regional, and global levels. Program participants will also receive additional benefits, such as the opportunity to communicate with experts and practitioners, promote urban sustainability, receive technical support and capacity development, and present illustrations of Earth observation end applications in countries and cities to the GEO Plenary. Additional benefits for individuals and organizations include:

  • Joining a global network of experts and practitioners from national/subnational, regional, or thematic initiatives to exchange methods, lessons learned, practices, and experiences related to geospatial information and integrated Earth observation efforts related to SDG 11 and NUA;
  • Assisting in promoting urban sustainability in your country and supporting cities that choose program support;
  • Working at the national level to coordinate activities and ensure communication and collaboration around the national urban agenda and related priorities;
  • Receiving direct technical support and capacity development from GEO, UN-Habitat, and Earth observation providers (space agencies), including replication of global approaches using local datasets to support monitoring, reporting, and planning activities related to SDG 11 and NUA;
  • Presenting to the GEO Plenary with illustrations of Earth observation end applications in countries and cities;
  • Becoming a global reference point and a "go-to" place for peer learning from city to city and country to country.

Digital Twin: The Case of Moscow

"Digital Twin of Moscow" is an accurate 3D replica (photogrammetric model) of the capital's territory in virtual reality. It includes all networks of engineering and transportation communications, metro stations, bus stops, and the city's infrastructure. To create it, more than 12 million photos of the entire city area were taken from different angles, both from the air and the ground. The photos are updated annually to maintain the photogrammetric model in an up-to-date state.

It's important to understand that the 3D model of the city is a virtual three-dimensional representation of the urban environment. It is created using computer programs and technologies that allow for a detailed three-dimensional model of the urban landscape, buildings, streets, parks, and other objects that make up the urban environment.

The digital twin of the city serves various purposes, including urban infrastructure management, optimization of urban mobility, enhancement of security, improvement of the quality of life for citizens, and many other aspects. It can serve as a foundation for the development and testing of new urban solutions and technologies, such as Smart Cities.

The digital twin of the city can also be used for data analysis and forecasting various events, such as traffic jams, climate changes, epidemic spread, and other phenomena. This can assist urban authorities in making more informed decisions and planning the future development of the city.

In addition to being a digital 3D model, the city's digital twin contains data on the physical structure, infrastructure, resources, population, transportation, and other aspects. The city's twin may include not only visual data but also information about the state and functioning of urban systems. The city's twin serves to collect and analyze data about the city, model and forecast processes and events, access information to improve management and decision-making in the urban context. It can be used for optimizing management systems, resource planning, improving public services, and other analytical purposes. For example, the Geographic Information System "Digital Twin of Anapa" identified more than 3,600 land plots in the territory of Bolshaya Anapa that were not registered in the cadastre. This information was reported by the city administration's press service.

According to a comparative analysis of aerial photography and the Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre, and Cartography (Rosreestr), the tax on unaccounted objects will annually contribute no less than 45 million rubles to the resort's budget. The city hall plans to register all objects using the digital twin.


Figure 3. Aerial Photography of Anapa (2023)

The photogrammetric model is complemented by five thousand analytical layers with arrays of data in all areas of city life, updated in real-time. The platform also includes an archive of panoramas covering 13 thousand kilometers of the entire Moscow territory since 2013. This allows not only viewing current and retrospective images of the city but also conducting high-precision measurements.

The "Digital Twin of Moscow" is a key tool in making urban planning decisions and development planning. One of the main functions of the platform is the ability to embed 3D copies of planned buildings, structures, and any other three-dimensional objects of the city into the photogrammetric model. This allows evaluating, even at the decision-making stage of construction, how the building will fit into the city's architecture, what load it will create on the infrastructure, and plan transportation accessibility. The "Digital Twin of Moscow" helps make informed urban planning decisions and choose the optimal location for construction, taking into account not only the current situation but also the city's development perspective.


Figure 4. Digital Twin of Moscow City

The platform is actively used at various stages of the renovation program implementation—from modeling efficient use of space and new attractions in neighborhoods to operational control of construction work using video from city cameras and quadcopters.

Advantages of the digital twin:

  • Better planning: Urban planners and architects can create and assess projects in a virtual environment, improving the quality of planning and saving money on construction.
  • Better management: City authorities can track changes in the city, forecast and manage various situations, such as accidents, traffic jams, and other unforeseen events.
  • Better communication: City residents can receive information about the city, such as public transportation schedules and roadwork information, improving communication between residents and city authorities.
  • Better ecology: City authorities can monitor and manage the city's environmental parameters, such as air and water pollution levels, enabling measures to improve the city's environmental situation.
  • Better security: City authorities can monitor and manage the city's security, such as transportation control and public places, enhancing the safety level for city residents.

ArcGIS Urban

ArcGIS Urban is an interactive 3D environment for urban planning and renovation. It provides a platform to organize diverse geospatial information about the urban environment, urban zoning rules, project construction life cycles, and territorial planning scenarios. This allows for assessing the impact of development projects on the urban environment, facilitating interaction between departments and agencies to make informed decisions and reduce potential risks.


The toolkit is based on geospatial technologies that integrate data about the urban environment from various sources and represent them as maps and charts. It utilizes geodata, such as land parcel data, buildings, roads, transportation, population, and other factors to assist urban planners and developers in making more informed decisions.

ArcGIS Urban was developed collaboratively with urban planners and developers to meet their needs for tools in more efficient and accurate urban planning. It employs advanced technologies such as machine learning and big data analysis to ensure maximum accuracy and data reliability.

This software provides tools for creating and visualizing plans and projects, as well as analyzing and forecasting their impact on the urban environment. It also enables project participants to interact and exchange information in real-time, speeding up the decision-making process and enhancing overall efficiency.

ArcGIS Urban is used to visualize and analyze various aspects of the urban environment, including transportation infrastructure, buildings, green spaces, parks, etc. It allows for the analysis of the impact of urban development on the environment and people's health, including noise levels and air pollution assessments.


Figure 5. ArcGIS Urban Interface

Advantages of using ArcGIS Urban in urban planning:

  • More accurate and reliable forecasting of the impact of plans and projects on the urban environment
  • More efficient use of resources and reduced decision-making time
  • Improved interaction among project participants and increased transparency in the decision-making process
  • More precise and reliable urban environment planning contributing to sustainable city development.


Figure 6. Example of Work in ArcGIS Urban – 3D Model of Riga City (2023)

Economic Efficiency of Urban Planning

Urban planning can have a significant economic impact on the city and its residents. When urban planning is done correctly, its economic efficiency can be substantial.

Some of the key economic benefits of urban planning include:

  1. Improvement of Economic Opportunities: Urban planning can create a favorable economic environment, contributing to increased productivity, the creation of new jobs, and higher incomes for residents.
  2. Enhancement of Quality of Life: Improving the urban environment, often a part of urban planning, can elevate the quality of life for residents, influencing the influx of new inhabitants and more profitable activities in the city.
  3. Enhancement of Transportation Infrastructure Efficiency: Urban planning can help optimize transportation infrastructure, potentially increasing the efficiency of urban transportation, reducing transportation costs, as well as lowering air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  4. Reduction of Energy Costs: Urban planning can contribute to the creation of an urban environment that considers the use of renewable energy sources and efficient technologies, potentially reducing energy costs and, consequently, increasing economic efficiency.
  5. Decrease in Land Costs: Urban planning can assist in optimizing the use of land resources to increase productivity and reduce costs in agriculture, contributing to higher economic efficiency.
  6. Attraction of Investments: Proper urban planning can attract investments in various economic sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and tourism, fostering economic growth in the city. However, urban planning may also incur some costs, such as the development of plans and programs, for which a high price may need to be paid. Nevertheless, overall, urban planning is often considered one of the most effective tools for addressing economic and social issues in cities.



Urban planning is a key element in creating sustainable and comfortable cities that meet the needs and desires of residents. The use of all methods of DZZ (demographic, land use, and land planning) in urban planning allows considering all aspects of city development, including environmental, social, and economic factors.

Advantages of using all DZZ methods in urban planning include:

  • Improvement of the quality of life for city residents, creating a comfortable and safe environment for living and working.
  • Efficient use of land resources, reducing negative impact on the environment, and preserving natural resources.
  • Promotion of economic development in the city, creating favorable conditions for business and investments.

Modern urban planning projects and programs, such as GEOURBAN, UN-HABITAT, digital twins, and others, employ state-of-the-art technologies and tools, such as geographic information systems, big data analysis, and urban environment modeling. These projects and programs help improve the quality of life for city residents, enhance resource utilization efficiency, and create more sustainable and environmentally friendly cities.

Overall, urban planning is an essential tool for creating sustainable and developing cities that align with the needs and desires of residents. The use of all DZZ methods and modern technologies allows achieving the best results in urban planning and creating a more comfortable and safe environment for living and working.