Easiest ways to add utility maps into CAD and GIS

Michael Egan

May 5, 2023

Do you have maps to digitize? Here are the pros and cons for different approaches to digitization.

Summary: If you have a few maps here and there, the easiest and most cost effective way to digitize your utility maps is to do it manually or, if you are really pressed for time, hiring a consultant. If you have a lot of maps regularly or a large, bulk digitization project using automated map digitization software is most time and cost effective.

Utility maps are indispensable for civil engineers and GIS analysts working in subsurface utility engineering. However, the challenge of converting these maps from PDFs into georeferenced vector layers for CAD and GIS systems has long been a time-consuming and complex process. Advances in technology have led to the development of various solutions, including our cutting-edge AI-powered software. Every project is unique, and not every project needs AI digitization. Here is a guide for helping decide what is the best approach for your project.

1. Manual Conversion and Georeferencing with Automation Tools

Traditionally, civil engineers and GIS analysts have manually converted and georeferenced PDF utility maps. This process involves:

  • Georeferencing the map by manually aligning it with existing geospatial data.
  • Digitizing the map by tracing features using CAD or GIS software.


  • Complete control over the conversion and georeferencing process.
  • No reliance on third-party software or services.
  • Flexibility to use your own preferred tools that suit specific project needs.


  • Time-consuming and labor-intensive, even with additional tools.
  • Requires a high level of expertise and experience.
  • Draws resources away from more impactful work.

2. Outsourcing to Contractors

Another approach is to outsource the conversion and georeferencing process to specialized contractors. This can be done with GIS consultancies or individual consults, from Fiverr for example. This can save time for engineers and analysts but comes with its own set of challenges:


  • Frees up time for engineers and analysts to focus on other tasks.
  • Utilizes the expertise of specialized contractors who may have different skillsets than you or your coworkers.


  • Can be expensive, especially for small or medium-sized projects.
  • Loss of control over data quality and accuracy.
  • Dependence on external parties for timely delivery.

3. Bunting Labs - The AI-Powered Solution for Converting PDF Utility Maps

Using AI to automate the process of georeferencing and digitizing maps is both faster than manual work and cheaper than using specialized professionals. For projects where you have a regular flow of PDFs, even if they are often different, or a large batch of maps to digitize at once, we can tailor our software exactly to your needs .


  • Significantly reduces the time and effort required to convert and georeference PDF utility maps.
  • Customizable to your goals.
  • Output can be compatible with CAD, GIS, or both.


  • For very low volume, specialized projects, time to customize to your goals may take longer than manual digitization.

Key Features:

  • Automatic georeferencing
  • Extraction of specific features as individual layers
  • Unique project? We will work with you to try to adapt our software around your goals

Given the available methods for converting and georeferencing PDF utility maps, it's essential to consider their pros and cons before deciding on the best approach for your project. For low volume projects manual digitization is most efficient, and for projects where you need a very high degree of control doing it internally is likely best. For recurring or high volume projects, our AI-powered software offers a significant advantage in terms of efficiency, accuracy, and integration, making it the top choice for civil engineers and GIS analysts. To learn more about our innovative software and how it can transform your subsurface utility engineering projects, schedule a call with our founder.