Scan line intensity-elevation ratio (SLIER): An airborne LiDAR ratio index for automatic water surface mapping

Wai Yeung Yan, Ahmed Shaker, Paul E. LaRocque

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Owing to the characteristics of how a laser interacts with the water surface and water column, the measured Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) intensity values are different with respect to the laser wavelength, the scanning geometry and the reflection mechanism. Depending on the instantaneous water condition and the laser incidence angle, laser dropouts can appear, causing null returns or empty holes found in the collected LiDAR data. This variable intensity response offers a valuable opportunity for using airborne LiDAR sensors for automatic identification of water regions, and thus, we previously proposed an airborne LiDAR-based ratio index named the scan line intensity-elevation ratio (SLIER). Over the water surface, airborne LiDAR data are always found to have a high fluctuation of the intensity value and low variation of the elevation along each scan line, and thus, the water region has a higher SLIER value compared to the land. We examined the SLIER on a multispectral airborne LiDAR dataset collected by Optech Titan and a monochromatic airborne LiDAR dataset collected by Optech Galaxy on a natural rocky shore and a man-made shore. Our experiments showed that SLIER was able to provide a high separability between land and water regions and was able to outperform the traditional normalized difference water index (NDWI) for estimation of the water surface. With the use of SLIER as a mechanism for training data selection, our case studies demonstrated an overall accuracy of 98% in the use of either monochromatic or multispectral LiDAR data, regardless of the laser channel being used.

Original languageEnglish
Article number814
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Land-water classification
  • Multispectral LiDAR
  • NDWI
  • Normalized difference water index
  • Optech Titan
  • Point cloud
  • Scan line intensity-elevation ratio
  • Water surface mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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