New technologies for terrain reconstruction have increased the availability of topographic data at a broad range of resolutions and spatial extents. The existing digital elevation models (DEMs) can now be updated at a low cost in selected study areas with newer, often higher resolution data using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or terrestrial sensors. However, differences in spatial coverage and levels of detail often create discontinuities along the newly mapped area boundaries and subsequently lead to artifacts in results of DEM analyses or models of landscape processes.
To generate a seamless updated DEM, we propose a generalized approach to DEM fusion with a smooth transition while preserving important topographic features. The transition is controlled by distance-based weighted averaging along the DEMs’ blending overlap with spatially variable width based on elevation differences.
We demonstrate the method on two case studies exploring the effects of DEM fusion on water flow modeling in the context of precision agriculture. In the first case study, we update a lidar-based DEM with a fused set of two digital surface models (DSMs) derived from imagery acquired by UAS. In the second application, developed for a tangible geospatial interface, we fuse a georeferenced, physical sand model continuously scanned by a Kinect sensor with a lidar-based DEM of the surrounding watershed in order to computationally simulate and test methods for controlling storm water flow.
The results of our experiments demonstrate the importance of seamless, robust fusion for realistic simulation of water flow patterns using multiple high-resolution DEMs.