Airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) has become a powerful support for acquiring geospatial data in numerous geospatial applications and analyses. However, the process of extracting ground points accurately and effectively from raw point clouds remains a big challenge. This study presents an improved top-hat filter with a sloped brim to enhance the robustness of ground point extraction for complex objects and terrains. The top-hat transformation is executed and the elevation change intensity of the transitions between the obtained top-hats and outer brims is inspected to suppress the omission error caused by protruding terrain features. Finally, the nonground objects of complex structures, such as multilayer buildings, are identified by the brim filter that is extended outward. The performance of the proposed filter in various environments is evaluated using diverse datasets with difficult cases. The comparison of the proposed filter with the commercial software Terrasolid TerraScan
and other popular filtering algorithms demonstrates the applicability and effectiveness of this filter. Experimental results show that the proposed filter has great promise in terms of its application in various types of landscapes. Abrupt terrain features with dramatic elevation changes are well preserved, and diverse objects with complicated shapes are effectively removed. This filter has minimal omission and commission error oscillation for different test areas and thus demonstrates a stable and reliable performance in diverse landscapes. In addition, the proposed algorithm has high computational efficiency because of its simple and efficient data structure and implementation.
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