10.7717/peerj.4835

Impact of input data (in)accuracy on overestimation of visible area in digital viewshed models

Abstract

Viewshed analysis is a GIS tool in standard use for more than two decades to perform numerous scientific and practical tasks. The reliability of the resulting viewshed model depends on the computational algorithm and the quality of the input digital surface model (DSM). Although many studies have dealt with improving viewshed algorithms, only a few studies have focused on the effect of the spatial accuracy of input data. Here, we compare simple binary viewshed models based on DSMs having varying levels of detail with viewshed models created using LiDAR DSM. The compared DSMs were calculated as the sums of digital terrain models (DTMs) and layers of forests and buildings with expertly assigned heights. Both elevation data and the visibility obstacle layers were prepared using digital vector maps differing in scale (1:5,000, 1:25,000, and 1:500,000) as well as using a combination of a LiDAR DTM with objects vectorized on an orthophotomap. All analyses were performed for 104 sample locations of 5 km2, covering areas from lowlands to mountains and including farmlands as well as afforested landscapes. We worked with two observer point heights, the first (1.8 m) simulating observation by a person standing on the ground and the second (80 m) as observation from high structures such as wind turbines, and with five estimates of forest heights (15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 m). At all height estimations, all of the vector-based DSMs used resulted in overestimations of visible areas considerably greater than those from the LiDAR DSM. In comparison to the effect from input data scale, the effect from object height estimation was shown to be secondary

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This paper was published in Directory of Open Access Journals.

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