This article provides an overview of building extraction approaches applied to Airborne Laser Scanning (ALS) data by examining elements used in original publications, such as data set area, accuracy measures, reference data for accuracy assessment, and the use of auxiliary data. We succinctly analyzed the most cited publication for each year between 1998 and 2014, resulting in 54 ISI-indexed articles and 14 non-ISI indexed publications. Based on this, we position some built-in features of ALS to create a comprehensive picture of the state of the art and the progress through the years. Our analyses revealed trends and remaining challenges that impact the community. The results show remaining deficiencies, such as inconsistent accuracy assessment measures, limitations of independent reference data sources for accuracy assessment, relatively few documented applications of the methods to wide area data sets, and the lack of transferability studies and measures. Finally, we predict some future trends and identify some gaps which existing approaches may not exhaustively cover. Despite these deficiencies, this comprehensive literature analysis demonstrates that ALS data is certainly a valuable source of spatial information for building extraction. When taking into account the short civilian history of ALS one can conclude that ALS has become well established in the scientific community and seems to become indispensable in many application fields.
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