Terrestrial landscape has complex three-dimensional (3D) features that are difficult to extract using traditional methods based on 2D representations. These methods often relegate such features to raster or metric-based (two-dimensional) representations based on Digital Surface Models (DSM) or Digital Elevation Models (DEM), and thus are not suitable for resolving morphological and intensity features for fine-scale land cover mapping. Small-footprint LiDAR provides an ideal way for capturing these 3D features. This research develops a novel method of integrating airborne LiDAR derived features and multi-temporal Landsat images to classify land cover types. We tested our approach in Williamson County, Illinois, which has diverse and mixed landscape features. Specifically, our method applied a 3D convolutional neural network (CNN) approach to extract features from LiDAR point clouds by (1) creating an occupancy grid, an intensity grid at 1-meter resolution, and then (2) normalizing and incorporating data into the 3D CNN. The extracted features (e.g., morphological and intensity features) from the 3D CNN were finally combined with multi-temporal spectral data to enhance the performance of land cover classification based on a Support Vector Machine classifier. Visual interpretation from both hyper-resolution photos and point clouds was used for training and preparation of testing data. The classification results show that our method outperforms a traditional method by 2.65% (from 81.52% to 84.17%) when solely using LiDAR and 2.19% (from 90.20% to 92.57%) when combining all available imageries. We demonstrate that our method can effectively extract LiDAR features and improve fine-scale land cover mapping through fusion of complementary types of remote sensing data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-434
Number of pages12
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Big data analysis
  • Convolutional neural network
  • Land cover classification
  • LiDAR
  • Multi-temporal Landsat imagery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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