Integrating the Bird.i APIs
with Esri ArcGIS Online
and ArcGIS Pro

What we’ll be doing and why

If you work with geographic information systems, you know about ArcGIS; it’s practically unavoidable. According to ARC advisory group (the name is a coincidence), Esri had a 43% share in the GIS market as of October 2014, over the next biggest competitor at 11%. Two of their most popular offerings, ArcGIS Online and ArcGIS Pro, can be very quickly and easily integrated with Bird.i’s Tiles API; this allows users of Esri’s industry leading software to have access to the most recent high-quality satellite imagery available.

In this tutorial, you will start with a map in ArcGIS Online and add an image overlay from Bird.i’s Tiles API. In the image below, you’ll be going from a map like the one on the left to one like the one on the right.

If you intend to use our imagery in ArcGIS Pro, you will then take the map you created in ArcGIS Online and import it into Pro. We will go step-by-step and explain how to integrate your map with our API, but you should have a few things before starting:

  1. An account for ArcGIS online. If you don’t already have one, you can sign up for a trial at this link.
  2. A Bird.i API token. You can find your token by logging into the Bird.i portal, clicking your name in the upper-right, and selecting profile management. If you don’t yet have a Bird.i account, you can sign up for one through our website here.
  3. (Optional) An account for and an installed copy of ArcGIS Pro. If you don’t have an account, one is included in the trial linked above.

Now let’s get started!

How we’ll be doing it

Bird.i’s Tiles API has been designed from the start to integrate easily into mapping applications such as ArcGIS. It uses the 2D Web Mercator (EPSG:3857) coordinate system to identify a single, specific tile. How this works in many applications is you provide a URL template as a source of the tiles, and when the application requests a specific tile, it fills in the required coordinates. Here is the template for our Tiles API endpoint in ArcGIS Online’s format:{level}/{col}/{row}/?token=[Bird.i token]

When sending a request, ArcGIS Online replaces {level}, {col}, and {row} with the desired tile’s zoom level, x, and y coordinates, respectively.

On a high level, here are the steps required to get the integration up and running:

  1. Add a tile layer to your ArcGIS Online map using the above URL as its source
  2. (Optional) Download a file to open the map in ArcGIS Pro

We’ll drill down into the specifics of course, but it really comes down to just those two steps. Now enough chit chat; let’s go!

Step 1: Get your map ready

In ArcGIS Online, select ‘Map’ at the top to go to your map.

If you already have a map that you want to add a Bird.i tile layer to, skip ahead to the next step! Otherwise, select ‘New Map’ in the upper-right.


Step 2: Add the Bird.i tile layer

Now that you’ve got your map, let’s add the Bird.i layer to it. First, select ‘Add’ in the upper-left, then ‘Add Layer from Web’.

In the pop-up, select ‘A Tile Layer’ from the dropdown. You’ll now be given options for URL, Title, and Credits. The URL can be copied from above (remembering to add in your Bird.i API token), Title can be something such as ‘Bird.i Tiles API’, and Credits can be something like ‘Bird.i Ltd’.

Believe it or not, those are all the required steps to get Bird.i tiles into your ArcGIS Online map! If all went to plan, you should have a new entry under contents with the Title you provided.

Bird.i imagery is available for zoom levels 14 to 19, so if you zoom in a bit, you should see the tiles load in. Remember to save your map by hitting ‘Save’ at the top of the page. If you are only looking to integrate with ArcGIS Online, then you’re done! If you want to integrate with Pro…

Step 3: (Optional) Open your Online map in ArcGIS Pro

Now that you’ve got your integrated map up and running in ArcGIS Online, it’s pretty straightforward to get it working in ArcGIS Pro. From the page with your map, first take note of the name you set for your map; in this example, the map is simply called ‘My Map’. Now select ‘Home’ in the upper-left, then ‘Content’.

On the content page, you should see your map in the list; select it. On the map’s details page, on the right, select ‘Open in ArcGIS Desktop’, then ‘Open in ArcGIS Pro’.

This should download a file called ‘item.pitemx’. Double-click this file to open it in ArcGIS Pro; once it has opened, double click your map on the right to show it.

Your map should now be showing, with Bird.i imagery, in ArcGIS Pro! If you want to have the Bird.i tile layer in another map, all you need to do is drag the layer from the ‘Contents’ tab in this window to the one in your other map’s window. It’s important to add it above the other layers, or the tiles could be hidden behind your basemap.

That’s it! You should now have a working Bird.i tile layer in your own map, looking something like this:

Hopefully this tutorial was pretty easy to follow, but if you encountered any issues along the way, feel free to reach out to us by following the ‘Contact Us’ link in the footer!


Sam McCants

Software Engineer at Bird.i