About geodetic features

A geodetic feature is one whose measurements account for the inherent distortion of projected space. Geodetic features are useful when you want to create a feature that spans a large distance, such as a flight path across an ocean.

The features you draw in ArcMap are not geodetic (they are planar) unless you create them using either the Construct Geodetic command or one of the following geoprocessing tools: Bearing Distance To Line, Table To Ellipse, or XY To Line. Geodetic features do not account for changes in terrain, though.

By their nature, maps and geospatial data contain distortion. The act of taking a 3D spherical surface, such as the earth, and projecting it to a flat 2D space warps the spatial relationships between locations on the original surface. To complicate matters, the earth is neither perfectly spherical nor perfectly smooth. It is flattened at the poles and it bulges at the equator. Map projections compensate for these irregularities, but they still contain spatial distortion. For more information on projections and coordinate systems, see What are map projections?.


Geodetic features contain densified geometry, which is a shape created by a series of connected vertices. For example, a densified curve is composed of a succession of points along the entire path of the curve, whereas a Bézier curve is smooth. Densified geometries require more resources to store and manipulate and are more difficult to edit than standard geometries. Editing or moving geodetic features makes them non-geodetic, so if you need to change or move a geodetic feature, re-create it instead.

Types of geodetic features you can create

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