The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XL-1/W1
02 May 2013
 | 02 May 2013


J. Smeeckaert, C. Mallet, and N. David

Keywords: Lidar, airborne, classification, water, support vector machines, seashore, rivers

Abstract. Accurate Digital Terrain Models (DTM) are inevitable inputs for mapping areas subject to natural hazards. Topographic airborne laser scanning has become an established technique to characterize the Earth surface: lidar provides 3D point clouds allowing a fine reconstruction of the topography. For flood hazard modeling, the key step before terrain modeling is the discrimination of land and water surfaces within the delivered point clouds. Therefore, instantaneous shoreline, river borders, inland waters can be extracted as a basis for more reliable DTM generation. This paper presents an automatic, efficient, and versatile workflow for land/water classification of airborne topographic lidar data. For that purpose, a classification framework based on Support Vector Machines (SVM) is designed. First, a restricted set of features, based only 3D lidar point coordinates and flightline information, is defined. Then, the SVM learning step is performed on small but well-targeted areas thanks to an automatic region growing strategy. Finally, label probabilities given by the SVM are merged during a probabilistic relaxation step in order to remove pixel-wise misclassification. Results show that survey of millions of points are labelled with high accuracy (>95% in most cases for coastal areas, and >89% for rivers) and that small natural and anthropic features of interest are still well classified though we work at low point densities (0.5–4 pts/m2). Our approach is valid for coasts and rivers, and provides a strong basis for further discrimination of land-cover classes and coastal habitats.