A robust signal preprocessing chain for small-footprint waveform LiDAR

Jiaying Wu, J. A.N. Van Aardt, Joseph McGlinchy, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The extraction of structural object metrics from a next-generation remote sensing modality, namely waveform Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), has garnered increasing interest from the remote sensing research community. However, the raw incoming (received) LiDAR waveform typically exhibits a stretched, misaligned, and relatively distorted character. In other words, the LiDAR signal is smeared and the effective temporal (vertical) resolution decreases, which is attributed to a fixed time span allocated for detection, the sensor's variable outgoing pulse signal, off-nadir scanning, the receiver impulse response impacts, and system noise. Theoretically, such a loss of resolution and increased data ambiguity can be remediated by using proven signal preprocessing approaches. In this paper, we present a robust signal preprocessing chain for waveform LiDAR calibration, which includes noise reduction, deconvolution, waveform registration, and angular rectification. This preprocessing chain was initially validated using simulated waveform data, which were derived via the digital imaging and remote sensing image generation modeling environment. We also verified the approach using real small-footprint waveform LiDAR data collected by the Carnegie Airborne Observatory in a savanna region of South Africa and specifically in terms of modeling woody biomass in this region. Metrics, including the spectral angle for cross-section recovery assessment and goodness-of-fit $(R^{2})$ statistics, along with the root-mean-squared error for woody biomass estimation, were used to provide a comprehensive quantitative evaluation of the performance of this preprocessing chain. Results showed that our approach significantly increased our ability to recover the temporal signal resolution, improved geometric rectification of raw waveform LiDAR, and resulted in improved waveform-based woody biomass estimation. This preprocessing chain has the potential to be applied across the board for high fidelity processing of small-footprint waveform LiDAR data, thereby facilitating the extraction of valid and useful structural metrics from ground objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6122503
Pages (from-to)3242-3255
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Digital imaging and remote sensing image generation (DIRSIG)
  • light detection and ranging (LiDAR)
  • signal preprocessing chain
  • structural metrics
  • waveform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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