A THRESHOLD-FREE FILTERING ALGORITHM FOR AIRBORNE LIDAR POINT CLOUDS BASED ON EXPECTATION-MAXIMIZATION
Keywords: Airborne LiDAR, Point clouds, Filtering, Ground points, Expectation-maximization, Intensity
Abstract. Filtering is a key step for most applications of airborne LiDAR point clouds. Although lots of filtering algorithms have been put forward in recent years, most of them suffer from parameters setting or thresholds adjusting, which will be time-consuming and reduce the degree of automation of the algorithm. To overcome this problem, this paper proposed a threshold-free filtering algorithm based on expectation-maximization. The proposed algorithm is developed based on an assumption that point clouds are seen as a mixture of Gaussian models. The separation of ground points and non-ground points from point clouds can be replaced as a separation of a mixed Gaussian model. Expectation-maximization (EM) is applied for realizing the separation. EM is used to calculate maximum likelihood estimates of the mixture parameters. Using the estimated parameters, the likelihoods of each point belonging to ground or object can be computed. After several iterations, point clouds can be labelled as the component with a larger likelihood. Furthermore, intensity information was also utilized to optimize the filtering results acquired using the EM method. The proposed algorithm was tested using two different datasets used in practice. Experimental results showed that the proposed method can filter non-ground points effectively. To quantitatively evaluate the proposed method, this paper adopted the dataset provided by the ISPRS for the test. The proposed algorithm can obtain a 4.48 % total error which is much lower than most of the eight classical filtering algorithms reported by the ISPRS.