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Accuracy Assessment of Digital Elevation Model Generated from Pleiades Tri stereo-pair

Salman Nasir*1, Irfan Akhtar1 Iqbal, Zahir Ali1, Atif Shahzad1


Training, Research and Development Directorate, Pakistans Space and Upper Atmospheric Research Commission
(SUPARCO), P.O.Box 8402, Karachi Pakistan.


KEYWORDS :( DTM, DEM, DSM, Pleiades, Tri Stereo-pair, RPC)

Digital Elevation Model (DEM) is crucial for several purposes like town planning, hydrological analysis, land sliding, flash floods,
earthquake, road construction, surface analysis, ortho-rectification of satellite imagery, 3D visualization, precise farming and forestry,
base mapping, flight simulation and disaster management. Pleiades is a French constellation of very high resolution satellites. It acquires
both panchromatic as well as multispectral imagery in Visible Near Infra-red (VNIR) range. The added benefit of Pleiades is that it
provides tri stereo-pair imagery at 0.5m spatial resolution, unlike its other contemporary systems like Quickbird and IKONOS. Tri
stereo-pair is used for Digital Terrain Model (DTM) and Digital Surface Model (DSM) extraction because of its backward and forward
look angles. Moreover, Pleiades provides Rational Polynomial Coefficient (RPC) and sensor model data which augment the accuracy of
its 3D products. Being a newly launched system, it provides fertile field for researchers to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of this
system. This study explores the potential of Pleiades Tri stereo-pair in generating high resolution DEM, and comparing its accuracy with
Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) and Advanced Space Thermal Emission Radiometer (ASTER). In this study, data from
space borne LiDAR (ICESat/GLAS) was used as a reference due to its reported unprecedented accuracy. Comparison of Pleiades with
LiDAR resulted in an R2 of 0.92 with an RMSE of 5.2m. Similarly, comparison of SRTM and ASTER resulted in an R2 of 0.74 (RMSE
7.5m) and R2 0.84 (RMSE 6.6m), respectively.
Conventionally, DEM/DTM is generated from the satellite

1. Introduction

stereo-pair which does not inform on the surface heights (DSM).

Pleiades-1A was launched successfully on December 16, 2011 in

Tri-stereo pair, on the other hand, gives information about the

its orbit from a Russian Soyuz ST rocket out of French Guiana.

terrain (DTM) as well as the height of the surface above ground

Pleiades-1A is the first satellite of the Pleiades constellation. The

(DSM). Objectives of this study were:

Pleiades constellation will comprise of two very high-resolution

i) To explore the potential of Pleiades Tri stereo-pair in

optical Earth-imaging satellites on a Sun-synchronous orbit at

generating a high resolution DEM (10 m)

694 km (Poli et al., 2013). The most prominent benefit of the

ii) To assess the accuracy of Pleiades Tri stereo-pair DEM with

Pleiades system is that it offers stereoscopic coverage of quite


high resolution. It has the ability to produce highest accuracy





accuracy (15cm)

through both a forward and backward looking stereo pair.

iii) To compare the accuracy of Pleiades DEM with SRTM-90m

However, this combination has limitations over gentle terrain

and ASTER-30m DEMs

areas. In terrains with high topographic variations, a nadir,

forward and backward looking tri-stereo pair can be used to

2. Study Area

overcome the inaccuracies due to topography (Philip Cheng,

2012).The sensor model & Rational Polynomial Coefficients

Melbourne is located at latitude 374849S and longitude

(RPCs) are provided with the data. All this information is

1445747E in the south-eastern part of mainland Australia,

required to extract a high resolution DSM (also referred to as a

within the state of Victoria. Melbournes major bayside beaches

DEM) to represent the earths surface as well as the objects such

are located in the south-eastern suburbs along the shores of Port

as buildings and trees on it. However, many applications require a

Phillip Bay, in areas like Melbourne. In comparison with other

DTM, which is derived from DSM, to represent the bare ground

Australian cities, Melbournes buildings have unrestricted height

surface with no objects.

limits. Out of six, Melbourne contains five tallest building of

Australia. Eureka Tower is the tallest of all and it is situated at

2.3.1 Acquisition of Tri Stereo-pair imagery

Pleiades 0.5m resolution Tri Stereo-pair of Melbourne was
acquired. Tri Stereo-pair is used for Digital Terrain Model
(DTM) and Digital Surface Model (DSM) extraction because of
its backward and forward looking-angles. Angles were
identified with the help of buildings shadow.
2.3.2 Block File Generation
Block file (*.blk) is an extension file that stores all the steps of
processing for DEM extraction. This file stored the information
of assigned projection, interior and exterior orientation, GCPs
information (Tie, Control, and Check) and Root Mean Square

Figure 2: Pleiades satellite Imagery of Melbourne

(RMS) accuracy of extracted DEM.

This tower also has an observation deck, from where all of the
Melbournes structures are visible. It has an average elevation is
31m (102) feet (Melbourne).The study area covers variation in

topography; it provides accuracy for DEM assessment at lower

and higher elevations.
2.2 Data Sets Used
Following datasets was used for DEM/DSM generation and for
accuracy assessment:

Pleiades Tri Stereo-pair imagery having 0.5m spatial

SRTM (Shutter Radar Topographic Mission) 90m
ASTER (Advance Space Borne Thermal Emission
Radiometer) 30m DEM
LiDAR points data with 15 cm accuracy

2.3 Methodology

The DEM generation is a very complex process and requires

high accuracy in inputs and data handling. The methodology
adopted in this paper is shown in Figure 2:

Figure 3: Left (A), right (B) and third angle(C) Tri Stereo-pair

2.3.3 Geometric Model

Pleiades has a push broom scanner. It has HRG2 instrument
(High Resolution Geometry) that captures panchromatic stereopair imagery. It provides automated geometric correction which
is helpful in self-calibration of interior orientation.
Figure 1: Methodological flow of the study


in metadata supplied by the vendors of satellite imagery will

2.3.4 Defining Projection

result in IO errors. This can be rectified through efficient

Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) south zone-55, projection

modeling approach.

was defined as Metric Coordinate system and WGS-1984




straightforward to

implement and it can be widely applied to other satellite

projection was defined as Geographic Coordinate System for

imagery for precise geo-referencing (Zhang et al., 2012).

stereo-pair imagery.
2.3.5 Interior Orientation
Precise geo referencing is required for exploiting the full
geometric or metric quality of optical satellite imagery. For this
purpose numerous senor orientation models have been designed
that are capable of utilizing the maximum metric potential of
these images which had been developed over the last few
decades. Specifically speaking, Rational Function model is

Figure 3: Rotation Angles in Degrees (Gessler, Spring, 2009)

more widely employed because it accounts for an entire physical

imaging process. This model also takes the information about the

2.3.6 Exterior Orientation

factors such as Interior Orientation (IO) and satellite orbit

A method applied for improving the Exterior Orientation (EO)

models. This information is mostly provided by the satellite

by using accurate ground control points, tie points and check

imagery vendors. Each satellite provides unique quality of IO

points for DEM extraction. Parameters of the EO, at the time the

parameters which significantly affects the geo-referencing

image is captured, are stored in the metadata or RPC file which

performance. Various methods for self-calibration have been

include Perspective Center (in meters), Rotational Angles (in

developed albeit such methods have a high requirement for

degrees)(see figures 4 & 5), focal length of the satellite, ground

substantial amount of ground control along with good point

principal points, pixel size and incident angle along and across

distribution (Zhang et al., 2012).

track. In addition to these, information about the right, left and

third angle imagery is also provided.

But, due to correlation between different model parameters the

results are not always stable. The Rational Function sensor
model has successfully been applied to satellite sensors like
Quickbird, IKONOS, World View and Pleiades. These satellites
produce Rational Polynomial Coefficient (RPC) file as metadata
file, which is used to illustrate the modeling procedures. The IO
parameters are firstly computed by spatial resection using the
vendor-supplied instrument view angles provided in the
metadata. This information is provided for each individual pixel
used to model the line-of-sight with respect to pixel location in
the focal plane. The computed IO parameters are then adopted in
the rational function sensor model and the metric performance of

Figure 4: Perspective Center in Meters (3D-Axis Rotation, 2010)

the satellite imagery is examined. The precision of line-of-sight

There are three types of points namely i) Control points, ii)

data depends on the quality of IO estimations. If errors occur in

Check points and iii) Tie points where each has three types of

these data then it will affect the results and IO parameters will

orientation which is Full, Horizontal and Vertical. Full

be of poor quality, this will lead to degradation of the geometric

orientation has X, Y and Z coordinates. Horizontal orientation

potential of the imagery.

has X and Y coordinates; whereas the Vertical orientation

Detailed examination reveals that the IO errors in these satellites

contains the Z values which is unknown and can be estimated or

demonstrate a similar distribution pattern. The errors in IO

ignored during triangulation. Control points are used for

parameters are compensated through rational functions. This

triangulation purpose. Check points are used for verifying the

modeling approach greatly improves metric performance with

quality of triangulation and Tie points indicate the position of

geo-referencing accuracy at sub-pixel level. Any impreciseness

ground point that appeared in the overlapping areas of two or


more images (Jacobsen, 2001).

The X, Y and Z coordinates are determined by triangulation.
These points can be collected manually or automatically.
In this study, 80 well-spread ground control points were
generated. Further, 143 tie points were generated using these
GCPs. It should be noted that a higher number of GCPs result in
higher accuracy of the extracted DEM by reducing the shift in
ortho-rectification of the imagery. Extreme care should be taken
Figure 5: Pleiades-10m DSM to DEM conversion

in selecting the GCPs, because the accuracy of the resulting

DEM is highly dependent on them. Using all the parameters of

DSM has information about surface elevation and DEM has only

interior and exterior orientation in Leica Photogrammetry Suite

terrain elevation information. So Pleiades-10m DSM now be

(LPS), a 10m resolution DSM was generated, which was later

converted into Pleiades-10m DEM.

converted into DEM.

3.1 Accuracy Assessment using LiDAR (ICESAT/ GLASS)

Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) onboard the Ice,

Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) is the first space

The coincident elevation values were extracted from Pleiades,

borne LiDAR and is acknowledged for its unprecedented

SRTM and ASTER DEMs using LiDAR data for comparison

accuracy of 15cm.LiDAR points are available in line strips

(Figure 8).

spaced at about 172 m (Iqbal,2013). On the basis of data

available for Melbourne city, Pleiades, SRTM and ASTER
DEMs were subset to match the extent of LiDAR point data.
Moreover, the SRTM-90m and ASTER-30m DEMs were
resampled to 10m for the purpose of comparison and accuracy
3.0 Results and Discussion
As DSM (Figure 6) describes the visible surface elevation and
DEM describes the bare ground elevation, for accuracy
assessment DEM is required. For this purpose PCI Geometica
was used to convert DSM to DEM (Figure 7).

Figure 8: Accuracy assessment with ICESat/GLAS point data

The comparison of Pleiades-10m DEM with LiDAR point

elevation resulted in anR2 0.92 and RMSE 5.2m (Figure 9).A
systematic error could also be noticed in the figure showing a
greater potential for correcting the Pleiades data. Similarly, the
comparison of ASTER-30m & SRTM-90m DEMs with LiDAR
point elevation data gave correlation 0.91, RMSE 6.65 as well as

Figure 6: DSM (10 m) generated using IO and EO parameters

correlation 0.86, RMSE 7.5 m respectively. Results show that

Pleiades-10m DEM is closest to LiDAR data as compared to


For this purpose, ASTER-30m & SRTM-90m DEMs were also

resampling at 10m DEMs. The correlation graph between
Pleiades-10m & LiDAR was very good which 0.963%.All the
elevation points were very close but lower side of one-to-one
line. It shows that Pleiades-10m & LiDAR was very close to
each other in vertical and horizontal accuracy (Figure 9).

Figure 11: Correlation between SRTM-10m resampled DEM with LiDAR

Table 1: Correlation between LiDAR, Pleiades-10m, ASTER10m and SRTM-10m


Figure 9: Correlation between Pleiades-10m DEM with LiDAR. The one-one







Table 4 shows that Pleiades-10m DEM was in close in

line is shown in red dashed line.

agreement with elevations from LiDAR (ICESAT/GLAS). This

was followed by ASTER-10m and SRTM-10m respectively.
The correlation graph between ASTER-10m & LiDAR shows

Here also generated correlation between LiDAR, Pleiades-10m,

that at low elevation ASTER has good relation with LiDAR and

ASTER-10m and SRTM-10m DEMs.

gradually it becomes weak as the elevation points goes to higher

4.0 Conclusion

latitude (Figure 10).

Results showed that Pleiades 10 m DEM gave RMSE of 5.2m

with LiDAR as a reference. Pleiades Tri Stereo-pair gave
precise results due to its forward and backward look angles. Tri
stereo-pair can also generate DSM with 1 m positional biased.






(ICESAT/GLAS), showed that Pleiades Tri Stereo-pair is very

useful for DEM/DSM generation due to its maximum
information content and high resolution. Pleiades Tri Stereo-pair
is very helpful for 3D model generation.

Figure 10: Correlation between ASTER-10m resampled DEM with LiDAR

The correlation graph between SRTM-10m & LiDAR shows

that there was weaker correlation. The elevation points were
scattered upper and lower side of the one-to-one line. At mid
elevation ranges between 18m to 25m; all the points were
near to one-to-one line. That is why correlation of these
points was good (Figure 11).


5.0 References
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