Photogrammetric point clouds: quality assessment, filtering, and change detection

Zhenchao Zhang

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

250 Downloads (Pure)


3D change detection draws more and more attention in recent years due to the increasing availability of 3D data. It can be used in the fields of land use / land cover (LULC) change detection, 3D geographic information updating, terrain deformation analysis, urban construction monitoring et al. Our motivation to study 3D change detection is mainly related to the practical need to update the outdated point clouds captured by Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) with new point clouds obtained by dense image matching (DIM).
The thesis has three main parts. The first part, chapter 1, explains the motivation, providing a review of current ALS and airborne photogrammetry techniques. It also presents the research objectives and questions. The second part including chapter 2 and chapter 3 evaluates the quality of photogrammetric products and investigates their potential for change detection. The third part including chapter 4 and chapter 5 proposes two methods for change detection that meet different requirements.
To investigate the potential of using point clouds derived by dense matching for change detection, we propose a framework for evaluating the quality of 3D point clouds and DSMs generated by dense image matching. Our evaluation framework based on a large number of square patches reveals the distribution of dense matching errors in the whole photogrammetric block. Robust quality measures are proposed to indicate the DIM accuracy and precision quantitatively. The overall mean offset to the reference is 0.1 Ground Sample Distance (GSD); the maximum mean deviation reaches 1.0 GSD. We also find that the distribution of dense matching errors is homogenous in the whole block and close to a normal distribution based on many patch-based samples. However, in some locations, especially along narrow alleys, the mean deviations may get worse. In addition, the profiles of ALS points and DIM points reveal that the DIM profile fluctuates around the ALS profile. We find that the accuracy of DIM point cloud improves and that the noise level decreases on smooth ground areas when oblique images are used in dense matching together with nadir images.
Then we evaluate whether the standard LiDAR filters are effective to filter dense matching points in order to derive accurate DTMs. Filtering results on a city block show that LiDAR filters perform well on the grassland, along bushes and around individual trees if the point cloud is sufficiently precise. When a ranking filter is used on the point clouds before filtering, the filtering will identify fewer but more reliable ground points. However, some small objects on the terrain will be filtered out. Since we aim at obtaining accurate DTMs, the ranking filter shows its value in identifying reliable ground points. Based on the previous findings in DIM quality, we propose a method to detect building changes between ALS and photogrammetric data. Firstly, the ALS points and DIM points are split out and concatenated with the orthoimages. The multimodal data are normalized to feed into a pseudo-Siamese Neural network for change detection. Then, the changed objects are delineated through per-pixel classification and artefact removal. The change detection module based on a pseudo-Siamese CNN can quickly localize the changes and generate coarse change maps. The next module can be used in precise mapping of change boundaries. Experimental results show that the proposed pseudo-Siamese Neural network can cope with the DIM errors and output plausible change detection results. Although the point cloud quality from dense matching is not as fine as laser scanning points, the spectral and textural information provided by the orthoimages serve as a supplement.
Considering that the tasks of semantic segmentation and change detection are correlated, we propose SiamPointNet++ model to combine the two tasks in one framework. The method outputs a pointwise joint label for each ALS point. If an ALS point is unchanged, it is assigned a semantic label; If an ALS point is changed, it is assigned a change label. The sematic and change information are included in the joint labels with minimum information redundancy. The combined Siamese network learns both intra-epoch and inter-epoch features. Intra-epoch features are extracted at multiple scales to embed the local and global information. Inter-epoch features are extracted by Conjugated Ball Sampling (CBS) and concatenated to make change inference. Experiments on the Rotterdam data set indicate that the network is effective in learning multi-task features. It is invariant to the permutation and noise of inputs and robust to the data difference between ALS and DIM data. Compared with a sophisticated object-based method and supervised change detection, this method requires much less hyper-parameters and human intervention but achieves superior performance.
As a conclusion, the thesis evaluates the quality of dense matching points and investigates its potential of updating outdated ALS points. The two change detection methods developed for different applications show their potential in the automation of topographic change detection and point cloud updating. Future work may focus on improving the generalizability and interpretability of the proposed models.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation
  • University of Twente
  • Vosselman, George, Supervisor
  • Gerke, M., Supervisor, External person
  • Yang, Michael Ying, Co-Supervisor
Award date14 Jan 2022
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-5265-3
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Photogrammetric point clouds: quality assessment, filtering, and change detection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this