What's the Point of a Raster ? Advantages of 3D Point Cloud Processing over Raster Based Methods for Accurate Geomorphic Analysis of High Resolution Topography.

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 2:40 PM
Dimitri Lague, CNRS Geosciences Rennes, Rennes, France
High Resolution Topographic (HRT) datasets are predominantly stored and analyzed as 2D raster grids of elevations (i.e., Digital Elevation Models). Raster grid processing is common in GIS software and benefits from a large library of fast algorithms dedicated to geometrical analysis, drainage network computation and topographic change measurement. Yet, all instruments or methods currently generating HRT datasets (e.g., ALS, TLS, SFM, stereo satellite imagery) output natively 3D unstructured point clouds that are (i) non-regularly sampled, (ii) incomplete (e.g., submerged parts of river channels are rarely measured), and (iii) include 3D elements (e.g., vegetation, vertical features such as river banks or cliffs) that cannot be accurately described in a DEM. Interpolating the raw point cloud onto a 2D grid generally results in a loss of position accuracy, spatial resolution and in more or less controlled interpolation. Here I demonstrate how studying earth surface topography and processes directly on native 3D point cloud datasets offers several advantages over raster based methods: point cloud methods preserve the accuracy of the original data, can better handle the evaluation of uncertainty associated to topographic change measurements and are more suitable to study vegetation characteristics and steep features of the landscape. In this presentation, I will illustrate and compare Point Cloud based and Raster based workflows with various examples involving ALS, TLS and SFM for the analysis of bank erosion processes in bedrock and alluvial rivers, rockfall statistics (including rockfall volume estimate directly from point clouds) and the interaction of vegetation/hydraulics and sedimentation in salt marshes. These workflows use 2 recently published algorithms for point cloud classification (CANUPO) and point cloud comparison (M3C2) now implemented in the open source software CloudCompare.