Urban land cover classification using airborne LiDAR data: A review

Wai Yeung Yan, Ahmed Shaker, Nagwa El-Ashmawy

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

352 Citations (Scopus)


Distribution of land cover has a profound impact on the climate and environment; mapping the land cover patterns from global, regional to local scales are important for scientists and authorities to yield better monitoring of the changing world. Satellite remote sensing has been demonstrated as an efficient tool to monitor the land cover patterns for a large spatial extent. Nevertheless, the demand on land cover maps at a finer scale (especially in urban areas) has been raised with evidence by numerous biophysical and socio-economic studies. This paper reviews the small-footprint LiDAR sensor - one of the latest high resolution airborne remote sensing technologies, and its application on urban land cover classification. While most of the early researches focus on the analysis of geometric components of 3D LiDAR data point clouds, there has been an increasing interest in investigating the use of intensity data, waveform data and multi-sensor data to facilitate land cover classification and object recognition in urban environment. In this paper, the advancement of airborne LiDAR technology, including data configuration, feature spaces, classification techniques, and radiometric calibration/correction is reviewed and discussed. The review mainly focuses on the LiDAR studies conducted during the last decade with an emphasis on identification of the approach, analysis of pros and cons, investigating the overall accuracy of the technology, and how the classification results can serve as an input for different urban environmental analyses. Finally, several promising directions for future LiDAR research are highlighted, in hope that it will pave the way for the applications of urban environmental modeling and assessment at a finer scale and a greater extent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-310
Number of pages16
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Airborne LiDAR
  • Full-waveform
  • Land cover classification
  • Land cover mapping
  • Laser scanning
  • LiDAR intensity
  • Radiometric calibration
  • Radiometric correction
  • Urban analysis
  • Urban environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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