DLR, 2018- ongoing

World Settlement Footprint (WSF®)

The worldwide expansion of human settlements is a major driver of global change and in particular the dynamic sprawl of cities poses great challenges. Hence, detailed knowledge about the 4D characteristics of the built environment plays a key role in the development of inclusive land governance and sustainable land use policies.

With the World Settlement Footprint (WSF®), DLR’s Smart Cities and Spatial Development team produces a collection of free and open global geo-datasets that provide information about various characteristics of the built environment, such as the vertical and horizontal extent, the population density and distribution, or the spatiotemporal pattern of settlement growth. The suite of WSF® products includes the following datasets:

World Settlement Footprint 2015 (WSF® 2015): 10m resolution binary mask derived from multitemporal Landsat-8 and Sentinel-1 radar imagery outlining the extent of human settlements globally for the year 2015.

World Settlement Footprint 2019 (WSF® 2019): 10 m resolution binary mask outlining the extent of human settlements globally derived by means of 2019 multitemporal Sentinel-1 (S1) and Sentinel-2 (S2) imagery

World Settlement Footprint Evolution (WSF® Evolution): 30 m resolution dataset based on multispectral Landsat imagery outlining the global settlement extent on a yearly basis from 1985 to 2015.

World Settlement Footprint 3D (WSF® 3D): 90m resolution dataset derived from TerraSAR-X/TanDEM-X and Sentinel data, providing detailed quantification of the average height, total volume, total area and the fraction of buildings at a global scale.

Other WSF datasets that will be released in the near future are WSF2019 imperviousness and WSF2019 population.

The WSF data provides accurate, up-to-date and globally available information and insights on the state and dynamics of the built environment at a high level of spatial detail and with global coverage. Therewith the WSF products can help planning, science, policy and business to implement effective, evidence-based strategies towards the sustainable, resilient and inclusive development of human settlements.


Dr.-Ing. Mattia Marconcini

Land Surface Dynamics
German Aerospace Center (DLR)
German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD)
Münchner Straße 20, 82234 Weßling