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Introducing Cesium World Terrain

Today we are announcing the new high-resolution global terrain tileset Cesium World Terrain, hosted by the commercial Cesium ion platform.

Cesium World Terrain fuses several data sources into a single quantized-mesh terrain tileset served by ion’s modern cloud architecture for efficient streaming into CesiumJS and other 3D engines.

Cesium World Terrain replaces the hosted STK World Terrain and includes higher resolution terrain in several areas that previously had 30–90 meter resolution:

  • England: now up to 1–2 meter resolution
  • Australia: 5 m (populated areas and coasts)
  • New Zealand: 8 m
  • United States: additional 10 m coverage
  • Canada: 30 m
  • Mexico: 30 m

This is the beginning of an upgraded terrain experience in CesiumJS that will culminate in terrain being enabled by default. First, more terrain data updates to improve resolution will roll out over the next several months. Second, new CesiumJS features such as polylines on terrain and textured polygons on terrain will roll out to make terrain support in CesiumJS first-class.

High-Resolution Terrain Makes a Big Difference

Here are a few of our favorite images of the new terrain. Try out the slider to see the huge difference the higher-resolution terrain makes.

England Lake District National Park is shown below. This area was upgraded to 1–2 m resolution (on the left) from 30 m (on the right). The new data better captures the peaks and roughness of the surface and better corresponds to the imagery.

The wireframe view below highlights the detail in the new data. Check out the difference in the foreground tiles.

The effect of the new terrain in the Pontrilas village in south Herefordshire, England, is more subtle, but really valuable. Below the new terrain captures the overpass on the left and the gully on the far right; the old terrain lacks these details.

Using Cesium World Terrain

Cesium World Terrain is part of the commercial ion web services for providing 3D content, analytics, and tiling services for terrain, imagery, and 3D Tiles to complement CesiumJS’s visualization. The Cesium team is excited about ion, our first product built around CesiumJS to support developing open-source CesiumJS.

As we roll out ion, Cesium World Terrain is free for non-commercial, commercial, and government use until September 1, 2018. Starting with the Cesium 1.43 release today, Cesium contains the free built-in ion account key. Add Cesium World Terrain in Cesium with the following code.

var viewer = new Cesium.Viewer('container', {
    terrainProvider : Cesium.createWorldTerrain();

After September 1, Cesium World Terrain is free for non-commercial and non-government use when you create a free ion account. For commercial and government use, upgrade to an ion+ account, which start at $149 a month and includes additional features such as 50 GB of storage for cloud-based tiling of your own terrain and imagery. Complete pricing information will be available with the May 1 release. Sign up at to be the first to know.

STK World Terrain Deprecation

After nearly four years of use, the hosted STK World Terrain is being replaced by Cesium World Terrain. STK World Terrain is deprecated starting today. It will be available until September 1, 2018.

We encourage everyone using STK World Terrain to switch to Cesium World Terrain by changing code like

scene.terrainProvider = new Cesium.CesiumTerrainProvider({
    url : '//'


scene.terrainProvider = Cesium.createWorldTerrain();

Starting with Cesium 1.43, Cesium contains a built-in key free for non-commercial and commercial use until September 1, 2018, as described above.

For more on Cesium World Terrain’s coverage, resolution, and terms of use, see the Cesium World Terrain page.

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