Accuracy verification of airborne large-footprint lidar data is important for proper data application but is difficult when ground-based laser detectors are not available. Therefore, we developed a novel method for lidar accuracy verification based on the broadened echo pulse caused by signal saturation over water. When an aircraft trajectory crosses both water and land, this phenomenon and the change in elevation between land and water surfaces can be used to verify the plane and elevation accuracy of the airborne large-footprint lidar data in conjunction with a digital surface model (DSM). Due to the problem of echo pulse broadening, the center-of-gravity (COG) method was proposed to optimize the processing flow. We conducted a series of experiments on terrain features (i.e., the intersection between water and land) in Xiangxi, Hunan Province, China. Verification results show that the elevation accuracy obtained in our experiments was better than 1 m and the plane accuracy was better than 5 m, which is well within the design requirements. Although this method requires specific terrain conditions for optimum applicability, the results can lead to valuable improvements in the flexibility and quality of lidar data collection.
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