How Well can Spaceborne Digital Elevation Models Represent a Man-Made Structure: A Runway Case Study

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GEOSCIENCES, vol.9, no.9, 2019 (ESCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 9 Issue: 9
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.3390/geosciences9090387
  • Journal Name: GEOSCIENCES
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus
  • Keywords: Spaceborbe DEM, SRTM, TanDEM, runway method, Zonguldak, suitability assessment, ACCURACY ASSESSMENT, TOPOGRAPHY MISSION, VERTICAL ACCURACY, SHUTTLE RADAR, ALOS, VALIDATION, ASTER
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


In this case study, an active runway of a civilian airport in Zonguldak, Turkey was used to assess the suitability of spaceborne digital elevation models (DEMs) to model an anthropogenic structure. The tested DEMs include the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), the Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) World 3D 30 m (AW3D30), the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM)-1", the SRTM-3", the SRTM-X, the TanDEM-3", and the WorldDEM. A photogrammetric high accuracy DEM was also available for the tests. As a reference dataset, a line-leveling survey of the runway using a Leica Sprinter 150/150M instrument was performed. The selection of a runway as a testbed for this type of investigation is justified by its unique characteristics, including its flat surface, homogenous surface material, and availability for a ground survey. These characteristics are significant because DEMs over similar structures are free from environment-and target-induced error sources. For our test area, the most accurate DEM was the WorldDEM followed by the SRTM-3" and TanDEM-3", with vertical errors (LE90) equal to 1.291 m, 1.542 m, and 1.56 m, respectively. This investigation uses a method, known as the runway method, for identifying the vertical errors in DEMs.