Automatic built-up area extraction by feature-level fusion of Luojia 1–01 nighttime light and Sentinel satellite imageries in Google Earth Engine

Farhad Samadzadegan, Ahmad Toosi, F. Dadrass Javan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
69 Downloads (Pure)


Today, with the non-stop expansion of urbanization, mapping urban areas and monitoring their dynamic changes have become challenges for governments and also a hot topic for researchers. Remote sensing imageries play a key role in urban studies, the extraction of urban built-up areas, and monitoring their changes. A variety of studies have proposed methods for the extraction of regional, national, and global built-up areas. However, the majority of them used limited features and applied a manual sample selection strategy for classification, leading to time-consuming and low-efficient algorithms. This paper proposes a fully automatic procedure to real-time extract built-up areas by integrating the Luojia 1–01 nighttime lights (NTL) images, Sentinel-2 multispectral data, Sentinel-1 Radar images, and SRTM elevation data in cloud-computing Google Earth Engine. Firstly, potential built-up areas (PBA) and non-built-up areas (NBA) are obtained by applying Otsu and multi-level thresholding to some of the extracted spectral-textural-spatial (STS) features and by applying logical rules. Secondly, built-up and non-built-up samples are automatically selected and are used to train a Support Vector Machine (SVM) supervised classifier and to classify the hybrid feature set so that a preliminary classified map (PCM) can be obtained. Thirdly, the PCMs are automatically corrected using the non-built-up area, and morphological operations in the so-called post-classification to provide a refined classified map (RCM) and final built-up map. Four study areas in Northern America, Europe (Scandinavia), the Middle East, and Eastern Asia were selected to test the proposed method. Also, five state-of-the-art built-up products, accompanied by Google Earth images, were used as the reference data. The results indicate that the proposed method can accurately and automatically select samples and map built-up areas with a spatial resolution of 10 m. Its performance is validated with an average overall accuracy of 94.4% and an average Kappa coefficient of 0.89 and by visual comparison of our method results with other reference data. The proposed method has significant potential to be used in real-time extracting built-up areas and in monitoring their dynamic changes on national and global scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1052-1069
Number of pages18
JournalAdvances in space research
Issue number4
Early online date23 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2023


  • Big data
  • Built-up mapping
  • Cloud computing
  • Luojia 1–01
  • Nighttime light
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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