University of California, Riverside

UCR GeoPad Digital Field Mapping System




Purchase & Assembly

Setup Gmail & Apple Account


Georeferenced Map Sources
Unreferenced Map Sources
Map Layer Preparation & Conversion Software
Importing Basemaps to FieldMove

Cloning a Set of Identical iPads

Using a Bad Elf GPS

Using FieldMove

Exporting Data

Post-Export Manipulation


Purchase & Assembly


Should be straightforward enough. Most of our equipment was bought from online retailers where possible. I found online prices to be more competitive than the "special educational pricing" offered to our University. Assemble the kit according to the layout shown below. Production line-style assembly can help speed up the process. Pay particular attention to Lifeproof case instructions. It may be worth engraving the more expensive components with identifiers and contact info. I clearly and permanently label every component as a separate kit to be sure students do not interchange items or cover up that they lost something (ex: all items in a kit labeled "UCR GeoPad #[n]").



We engrave all components with an email address and kit number.         GeoPad kit assembled. Kit at left weighs 767g (1.7lbs).


Setup Gmail & Apple Account


The instructor or person who wants to assume responsibility should consider setting up a dedicated email address (Gmail recommended) either for the GeoPads (e.g. or for the specific course they are using them for (e.g. Having a dedicated Google account makes sharing files and documents across the free Google products work particularly well (Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.). Do not make this password accessible to students.


Upon turning on your first iPad, setup will prompt you to enter or create a new Apple account. Create a new account using your dedicated email address as above. Do not make the password accessible to students. When asked to create a four-digit pin code or thumbprint (iPad mini 3 & 4) click on the fine print "no thanks" option since GeoPads used for teaching should not have sensitive information and should be as accessible as possible. To be able to purchase apps you will need to provide credit card information. Because our University does not issue personal or account credit cards, I give the login details to our department purchasing person and have them fill in their credit card details. When I make a purchase I forward on the email receipt to this person, which works well enough. Your situation may be different.


All iPads should use the same Apple login details. This ensures that you only pay for apps once (not per device), and allows you to easily manage and clone a class or organization set of iPads (which later can be customized individually) from one account.



Having a basemap of some description is an essential feature for most mapping applications as it provides reference, location, and can aid in interpretation. Being able to instantly flip between a half-dozen or more imagery types (aerial, topo, geology, lidar hillshade, etc.) greatly extends this ability to interpret while in the field.


FieldMove offers three "built-in" online basemap options selectable from its Layer menu (satellite, road, and terrain maps derived from OpenStreet Map). Field sites rarely have WIFI, which leaves you two options:
  1. Caching. The easy (but limited) way. If these three layer options are sufficient for your mapping needs and the field area is not overly large, you can temporarily "cache" the imagery to the iPad's internal memory. Think of the cache as a rolling temporary memory- once the cache limit is reached the most recently viewed imagery overwrites the older imagery. Google Earth and most web browsers operate similarly. To cache imagery you should zoom on the map to the maximum imagery quality that you desire. Once the imagery for this area is loaded (clearly visible), move to the adjacent area and let that load. Repeat this until you have covered the entire field area. Repeat this procedure with the other imagery types for the same area if desired. Then double-check that when you turn off the WIFI the imagery is still visible (this indicates it is temporarily stored, and will remain stored until you clear the cache or overwrite it by loading other areas after). Note in FieldMove's Settings menu there are relevant options for basemap loading and cache resetting. I usually make sure caching imagery is the last thing I do before heading to the field and then leave my iPad on Airplane Mode.


This method works great as a "quick-and-dirty" option, requiring little time or setup!


  1. Importing. The harder (but more empowering) way. Arguably one of the most important features of FieldMove is the ability to import your own basemaps. For the iOS case described here this means using iTunes as the bridge between your computer and iPad. Note that FieldMove does not currently support vector-based file types for import. Two raster-based file types are supported for importing, GeoTIFF and MBTiles.


    GeoTIFF: GeoTIFF is a fairly standard file format which can be read by most GIS software packages including ArcGIS and Google Earth Pro. It is essentially a TIFF image file with georeferencing information embedded in it (projection, coordinate system, extent, etc.). These files are typically easy to generate (e.g. in ArcGIS). A key disadvantage of this file format is the often large file size for map areas and the fact that FieldMove will try to load the entire file at once (not just the portion visible in the current map view). This can lead to slow basemaps load times, especially initially. I would not recommend importing GeoTIFF files larger than about 350MB each.


    MBTiles: MBTiles is the preferred file format, though in some cases may require an additional step to prepare (such as converting from a GeoTIFF file). As the name suggests, this single file is actually a database of smaller raster images that are referenced to each other according to a tiled mosaic. This file structure allows you to customize what is visible at different map scales to ensure the best balance of resolution vs. file size, detail vs. clarity. Many web-based map applications use MBTiles for its efficiency such as Google Maps (with slow internet connections you will see the map area load square by square). The advantage of this file format is that only the imagery within the current map view is loaded (and at the appropriate scale), making for much more efficient basemap loading in FieldMove.


MBTiles work off the principal of a map zoom level, which is defined by the width a 256 pixel wide map is in degrees longitude. A tile is a square raster image 256 pixels by 256 pixels. Notice the steep climb of the number of tiles as zoom level grows (and file size correspondingly). Although this means the pixels per meter depend on latitude and the map scale depends on the pixel size/density of the viewing screen. Some generalizations based on maps centered on the equator are provided in the table below. CalTopo supports exporting images to zoom level 16. FieldMove and Move software support basemaps to zoom level 20. It will depend on the type of mapping and applications you require, but generally zoom levels 16-18 work well.




Pixel Size (m)


# Tiles



whole world


1:500 million






1:250 million






1:150 million






1:70 million






1:35 million






1:15 million






1:10 million






1:4 million






1:2 million




wide area


1:1 million






















village or town


















small road


















airborne lidar




20     0.0003                          0.149               1:500         1,099,511,627,776


Sources for different types of basemap imagery are discussed, followed by steps to import the basemaps into the FieldMove app on the iPad.


This is divided into three sections. (1) Georeferenced map sources that are good to go (other than possibly file type conversion). (2) Unreferenced image sources that will require you to manually add georeferencing for use. (3) Bridging software such as ArcMap, TileMill, Move that allow you to georeference images, layer data, and/or convert their file type to GeoTIFF or MBTiles.


Georeferenced Map Sources



CalTopo is an invaluable (free, account recommended) online GIS, which compiles many excellent basemaps and has functionality to efficiently export to the MBTiles format. In my opinion CalTopo is one of the more user-friendly, and underappreciated resources on this list (hence my longer explanation). Although beyond the basemap discussion here, CalTopo allows you to build your own maps online, import/export/create point, line, and polygon data, collaboratively edit maps, and offers many analytical features (measuring tool, create a viewshed, create a profile view, calculate sun exposure, and calculate terrain statistics for a selected area). Really quite incredible features for a free homegrown piece of work and I highly recommend exploring CalTopo's many capabilities! For frequent users I recommend a Pro account, highly worthwhile at $50/yr. Among other features you can export much larger areas as MBTiles.


Coverage types include shaded USGS topographic maps, satellite orthophotos, shaded relief (hillshade), road maps, historic maps, and terrain maps, and include the ability to overlay contours, slope shading, land management data, fire history data, as well as current weather, water, and snow data. Coverage areas are typically complete across the United States, with some data (topo, etc.) available for Canada and New Zealand. Google layers will work globally.


Due to licensing restrictions it is not possible to export Google or SNOTEL layers, but all others can readily be exported to MBTiles format. This process is walked through below:


  1. Setup. Navigate and zoom to desired field area. Select the desired layer or combination of layers from the left column or drop down menu in the top right corner (mouse over text there, click on text right of "Base Layer" to select, add additional layers as desired, select checkboxes below as needed.

  2. Export. Once you have the desired basemap in view (+/- overlaid data), mouseover "Print" from the top toolbar and then click on "Download KMZ or MBTiles File". This opens a new window or tab in your browser which should have a red rectangle with arrows in the corner (export area). Click-and-drag an arrow on the corner of the rectangle to adjust the area to be exported. Notice because of the tiled nature of the data you may have to download a slightly larger area than targeted for full coverage. On the left size is an option to select the desired target zoom. The highest export option is likely to be "16 1:12k", which is what I would select unless I am worried about file size. When ready, click on "Download MBTiles" to have Caltopo prepare to download the file to your computer. Once downloaded I would recommend immediately renaming the file something meaningful so you can distinguish it from other files you create (e.g. Hill40ftContUCRcampus.mbtiles; you cannot rename them once they are sent to the iPad).

* Hint: If you want to make the map area clear to students and avoid them walking out of it, add a polygon defining the map area before exporting.

  1. Import. Use directions below to import the created MBTiles file(s) into the FieldMove directory via iTunes.





OpenTopography (free, account recommended) specializes in access to high resolution topographic data, especially publicly-funded airborne lidar data. In addition to raw point cloud data download (for advanced users), there is functionality to have OpenTopography process KML (Google Earth) and GeoTIFF files for you. Current high resolution coverage is mostly limited to specific areas in the United States, but global 90m Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) data is also available. The site also features excellent tools and tutorials to support topographic analysis.





Koordinates (free, account required) is a useful clearinghouse for geospatial data. New Zealand, United States, Canada, and Australia are best represented but new data seems to be added all the time. Vector datasets will need to be converted to raster using a different program.





EarthExplorer (free, account required) is USGS's main search and download system for orthophotos, elevation data, land cover data, and diverse satellite imagery. If you know exactly what it is you are looking for (or have the time to browse), this is a good way to get it. In most cases it will be left up to you to convert the data to a GeoTIFF or MBTile.




The National Map

The National Map (free, account required) is USGS's outlet for topographic data (specifically as USGS topographic maps and elevation data). In most cases you will need to convert the data after download.





TopoView (free, no account required) is yet another USGS outlet for topographic maps. I have found their server to be rather slow at times, but otherwise it has an excellent interface for searching an area for published USGS topographic maps of different ages. It offers the option to download all maps in a GeoTIFF file format. Since the file sizes are relatively small (10-20MB) you do not really even need to convert them to MBTiles. Easy!




Unreferenced Map Sources



MapView (free, no account needed) is USGS's admirable attempt to create a United States-wide mosaic of geologic maps with an underlying catalog of geologic map-related resources. This veritable hodgepodge displays a single geologic map image for everywhere in the U.S. I have found most of the maps in view (at least in areas I am interested in) are not readily downloadable and are not the most up to date geologic maps available. Clicking on the "List Pubs in View" tool opens up a handy reference list of resources relevant to that area and includes links to downloads and GIS data where available. Often I will resort to screen grabbing an image (PrtScn) and then crudely georeferencing the cropped image in ArcGIS, which is certainly better than nothing.


More Info:


Google Earth Pro

Google Earth Pro (free!) is rather restrictive when it comes to directly exporting georeferenced aerial imagery (likely related to the varied data sources), but there is a manual workaround to utilize its high resolution imagery. First go to "Tools>Options…" and then set the Elevation Exaggeration to its minimum (0.01). Be sure your view is vertical and N is up. Click on the Time Slider icon to flip through the available imagery and select the one that is the best for your purpose. "File>Save>Save Image…" opens up image exporting options. Uncheck all the overlays and set resolution to Maximum (4800 x 2916 pixels). If you need to cover a larger area then use the arrow keys to scroll and collect adjacent images in a grid pattern. You can then stitch these into one large image in Photoshop or similar photo-stitching software and then manually georeference the image in ArcMap. There are third party programs and scripts to automate this process, but none I have yet found worth the trouble or expense.




ArcGIS Earth

ArcGIS Earth (free!) is ESRI's Google Earth knockoff. This is a relatively new offering (born 2016) that I admittedly have only played around with a little, but is worth the download and keeping an eye on as active development continues. So far I have found it to be faster and more stable than Google Earth (but less featured). It's handy for quick viewing of KMZ files and its ability to readily import your own terrain meshes. The licensed ESRI imagery in many cases is different than Google's so it's worth checking both.




*** This is an incomplete list and only contains a few of my favorites. Email me if you think something should be added!


Map Layer Preparation & Conversion Software


*** Here I use the term "bridging software" to describe programs that allow preparation and export of map layers from raw sources to the georeferenced file formats accepted by FieldMove (GeoTIFF, MBTiles).



Caltopo (described above) is quite handy in that it allows you to import GPX (Garmin GPS file) or KML (Google Earth) files (both vector-based). You can overlay this data (plus easily create new points, paths and polygons in CalTopo), then underlay it with a selection of their imagery and data, then export all these layers together as a MBTiles file. This will rasterize the vector data which will pixelate the view, but this is still a convenient option. Zoom levels up to 16 (1:12,000; 2.4m pixels) are supported.



Move (free with academic license) is Midland Valley's core application of its full featured 3D geologic software suite designed for geoscientists and engineers. It is capable of loading many geospatial file types and exporting as MBTiles files as well as georeferencing images without geospatial information. Zoom levels to 20 (1:564; 0.15m pixels) are supported. You will need to create an account, request a one-year academic license, and sign an agreement. This program gives maximum functionality to project data exported from FieldMove (kinematic analysis, cross sections, etc.) so is worth exploring.


Exporting to MBTiles:



TileMill (free!, replaced by more extensive MapBox Studio) is a lightweight program capable of importing CSV, ESRI shapefile, KML, and GeoTIFF files (among others) and exporting them as MBTiles. Abbreviated workflow: Create a New Project, click Layer symbol in bottom left, import file(s) using Add Layer, click Export>MBTiles in top right, select desired area to export/filename/zoom levels/etc., Export! Exporting can take a while depending on file size. Not too shabby.





ArcMap ($$) is the main desktop mapping program of ESRI's ArcGIS software package and is a whole world unto itself. A full description is beyond the scope of this webpage but it accepts a wide variety of file types, allows data manipulation and exporting as a GeoTIFF. Currently it cannot directly export MBTiles. I use ArcMap to manually georeference geologic maps or aerial photos and then export as GeoTIFFs.

ESRI Tutorial:

Texas A&M University Library Tutorial:

Web Map Academy:


There are plenty of other full-featured desktop GIS programs including open source GRASS GIS and QGIS that could easily be utilized instead for basemap preparation.

Importing Basemaps to FieldMove


Click on the link below to download Midland Valley's guide to preparing and importing basemaps. Notice this includes an explanation of how to import into Android and Windows devices as well as iOS. For iPads, a device with iTunes must be used to transfer basemap data. (1) Connect the iPad to the computer and open iTunes. (2) Click on the symbol in the top left menu area denoting the iPad. Click on the "Apps" menu on the left sidebar. The screen that comes up is confusing as it has three separate scroll windows. Click and drag the far right scroll bar until the second heading "File Sharing" is visible. Within the "Apps" list you should see "FieldMove". Click on it to open the folder for "FieldMove Documents". (3) Drag-and-drop your GeoTIFF and/or MBTiles files into this root folder (alternatively you can use the "Add File…" button at the bottom of the window. You should see a status bar at the top of the iTunes window showing progress. When the bar is gone and replaced by the Apple logo the transfer is complete. When you are done, "eject" the iPad using the eject symbol in the left menu. (4) The final step is to open FieldMove on the iPad, go to the desired project, and then click "Import" under the Layer menu. If all went well you should see a prompt that it loaded successfully.

Midland Valley's overview guide:


Cloning a Set of Identical iPads


For use in a class or for an organization. Exact instructions may vary as Apple's software inevitably is updated. These directions work as of November 2016.


  1. Setup "master" GeoPad with apps/layout/files that you wish to clone to all GeoPads. This means you should have all data you wish to give the students (basemaps, journal articles, etc.) preloaded before starting to clone the devices. Think carefully about how to arrange according to priority. I hide useless Apple bloatware deep into folders. Add a nice geological background image or your department logo to the desktop. Note that the "master" GeoPad should not necessarily be the instructor's GeoPad (if you want to have your own data, previous year's work, geological maps, music collection, and other things that you might not want on the students' GeoPads).
  2. Connect "master" iPad to iTunes.  If you are using FieldMove with external map layers (Geotiff or mbtile formats) drag-and-drop them into the app's folder under File Sharing under the iPad in iTunes. Once iPad is 100% ready to go, use Back Up Now to save a copy of the master iPad to the computer. Put master iPad aside. The following directions pertain to the iPad to be cloned.
  3. Turn on "clone" iPad. Run through iPad setup (English, US, wifi setup*, Enable Location Services, Setup as New iPad**, Sign In With Your [course] Apple ID, Agree, Don't Use iCloud, Don't Add Passcode, Use Siri, Don't Send Diagnostics, Get Started) *We use 90-day guest accounts to our university's wifi (1 per iPad) to keep students from logging in with their personal details. **You cannot go straight to "Backup" at this point if the Backup iOS version is different than the factory shipped iOS version.
  4. On clone iPad go to Settings, then General, then Software Update. Download and Install latest version and Agree. This could take sometime (multitask if necessary). Run through iPad setup again! (see Step 3)
  5. On the iPad go to Settings, then iCloud, then Find My iPad. Turn off Find My iPad (log-in required to confirm).
  6. Connect clone iPad to computer. Allow iPad access to computer and tell iPad it trusts the computer. Select "Restore from this backup" and be sure your master iPad backup is selected.
  7. After restoring you'll have to setup the iPad yet again! Sometimes the wifi log-in seems to be automatically entered wrong. Go to Settings, Wifi, select your wifi, and Forget This Network. Re-select and re-enter wifi log-in details. At this point you should be prompted for Apple verification. Click Settings on the pop-up and enter your account password. Enter it again if you want to sign-in to the iTunes Store. It's now OK to disconnect from the computer. Via the wifi connection the iPad will begin populating the apps onto your home screens. If the iOS updates added unwanted bloatware (Garage Band, Keynote, etc.) you can long press on them, the select the "x" to delete them. Loading of apps could take 5 minutes or so. This is a good time to charge your iPad to full battery. Also don't forget to name your iPad something unique (e.g. "UCR Earth Sciences GeoPad #3") under Settings, then General, then About.
  8. The last step may be to go to the App Store, then Updates, then update your apps to the latest version if they were not already (ideally they already are).
  9. Repeat Steps 3 to 8 for any additional iPad to be cloned. Once you get the hang of it you can get them through the production line at about five minutes each.

Using a Bad Elf GPS


The cellular version of the iPad Mini 2 has an internal A-GPS/GLONASS receiver that is capable of about 5m positional accuracy (perhaps sufficient for teaching exercises but not research or industrial applications). The Bad Elf GNSS Surveyor is capable of 1m stationary accuracy while in the field (SBAS+PPP) and 10-50cm accuracy with post-processing of raw data (RINEX files). This small device connects remotely to the iPad by bluetooth, overriding the iPad's internal GPS with the Bad Elf's more accurate measurements. The Bad Elf app is a user-friendly utility that helps manage the connection and functionality. Some students preferred to wear the GPS around their neck on a lanyard. I preferred to leave it in the top pocket on my backpack where it was out of the way but had a good view of the sky. I will consider expanding this section if there is demand, but I think the links below do an adequate job of explaining the advantages and procedures.


Bad Elf user guide:


Obtaining 1m accuracy in the field:


Sub-1m accuracy through post-processing:


Bad Elf educational discounts:


Using FieldMove


This is typically the point at which I start involving undergraduates in the workflow. The GeoPads are ready to go with apps and basemaps preloaded to save time and I just provide a brief explanation of what I did to set it up (download apps, preload data). I consider this last point important as it ensures they have gained a marketable skill that they can setup for an employer or graduate advisor from the start.


Midland Valley has put together a handy User Guide for FieldMove, which includes clear export instructions:

Thankfully the FieldMove app is gracefully sleek and intuitive in its organization, which spares me a more detailed walkthrough here. Essentially the map takes up most of the screen real estate with GPS status shown on the top bar and most of the functionality tidily organized on an expandable sidebar (symbols in descending order: Expand Side Panel, Project Properties, Map Layers, Measurements, Drawing Tools, Stereonet, Notebook/Photos, Export, Help). Pinch to zoom the map, drag to move. You'll pick it up in a few minutes!

Click or flick through the images below to see some of FieldMove's functionality for an example project.

Exporting Data


Exporting data created in FieldMove is a very straightforward process. All data created in FieldMove are able to be exported including vector-based point/line/polygon data, raster-based photographs (including annotations), and text-based note/measurement data (basemaps are not exported with the GeoPad created data).


For the simplest class exercises we have had students export .kmz files that they submit to a folder in a course Google Drive folder. This is intuitive for the students and easiest for the instructors to grade by opening the KMZ files in Google Earth. When loaded in Google Earth much of the visualization of features is preserved (for example structural measurements will have the correct symbol and orientation; linework colors will be preserved). You can choose to have students (a) submit their raw exported KMZ file immediately on return from the field, (b) give them an opportunity to edit features directly on the iPad, or (c) have the students edit and organize the file in Google Earth. You may wish to have students remove their geotagged field notes and field photographs from the final submitted map or leave them in and grade them as part of the assignment.

For professional products, the more involved procedure of pushing the data to Move or ArcGIS may be more appropriate. The basic steps for exporting are as follows:

  1. In FieldMove click on the "three horizontal line" menu option, then the Export symbol. Here you can select which of three file types you wish to export: (1) .mve, the proprietary database-like project format of Midland Valley's Move program, (2) .kmz, the proprietary database-like format for Google Earth, and (3) .csv, a comma separated text file (this option actually exports several output files sorted by data type such as line.csv, plane.csv, note.csv). Choose .mve if you plan to work with Move (a full feature geological software suite allowing the creation of geologically valid 3D models and cross sections, most advanced option). Choose .kmz for quick viewing in Google Earth (easiest option). Choose .csv if you want quick access to notes or structural data. Choose either .kmz or .csv if you are planning to move the data to a third party GIS system, such as ArcGIS.

  2. After the "Export Successful" message appears the file will be created and sit in FieldMove's file sharing folder on the iPad. There are two main ways to access the created file:

    1. By clicking on the Share button you will have the option of (i) exporting to another Apple device using AirDrop, (ii) emailing the file to yourself, or (iii) file sharing it to a Dropbox or Google Drive folder.

    2. Alternatively you can connect the GeoPad to a laptop or desktop computer and open iTunes. Select the iPad icon, then click on the Apps menu, then scroll down to the File Sharing menu, and select FieldMove. You should see all your created files ready to be dragged-and-dropped to you computer desktop.

  3. If necessary convert the files to the desired file type. KMZs can be resaved as KMLs in Google Earth (this will strip the field photos). A couple methods to convert KMZ to file geodatabases (.gdb) or KML files to ArcGIS shapefiles (.shp) are described at links below.


Midland Valley has put together a handy User Guide for FieldMove, which includes clear export instructions:


Info on AirDrop:


Opening KMZ in ArcMap:


Convert KML to SHP online:


Convert KML to LYR ArcGIS tool:


UGeorgia Guide to convert KML to SHP: Google Earth klm to ArcMap shp.pdf


Post-Export Manipulation


See the Research page for a limited discussion of where you can push your field data once back in the office (GIS, 3D mapping, stereonets, etc.). I will aim to add more content as time and experimentation allow.

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More Information 

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Contact Information

UCR GeoPad Digital Field Mapping System
Department of Earth Sciences

Tel: (951) 827-3183

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