Automatic Extrusion of Surface Features from Terrain Aerial/Satellite Imagery

Period of Performance: 04/22/2003 - 10/22/2003


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Vexcel Corp.
1690 38th Street
Boulder, CO 80301
Principal Investigator


Vexcel Corporation proposes to address challenges related to providing terrain and 3D feature data using civilian space borne optical sensors. The initial intended use of these data sets is to support the Navy's growing need for high quality, detailed 3D terrain and feature databases to support simulation and visualization activities. Space borne optical data is particularly well suited to this task by virtue of its universal availability as well as its standardized pricing and quality. Under this SBIR we will determine the inherent accuracy possible using satellite image data, such as that provided by QuickBird and IKONOS. This analysis will include consideration of innovative data processing strategies to improve accuracies and minimize ground control requirements. Under this effort, Vexcel will evaluate the best means to extract terrain and 3D feature data from satellite imagery. Under this effort, we will demonstrate system and algorithm performance over two test sites, and we will demonstrate the usability of the resulting terrain and feature data sets within real-time simulation and visualization software environments. The capabilities developed under this proposal will have broad commercialization potential in the domestic and international mapping industries. An important result of a successful program from a commercialization point of view will be Vexcel's ability to provide cost effective domestic and international mapping services to the Navy, and other branches of the DoD and the Intelligence Community: these production technologies will give Vexcel the capability to rapidly and cost effectively expand the detailed map coverage of strategically important international venues for the DoD. In addition, there is expected to be a growing need for large scale and extensive mapping of domestic urban environments, with ongoing update programs, in support of Homeland Security efforts. Vexcel will be in an excellent position to capture much of this business. This includes not only providing the technology for use by the Government, but also providing related systems and operations required to perform diverse mapping jobs. Vexcel will vigorously pursue, possibly with partners, developing such a program. Vexcel continues to develop the means to bring traditionally expensive detailed urban mapping within reach of commercial applications, such as telecommunications, and industrial facilities management. New techniques like those presented in this proposal offer the promise of further reducing the cost of producing useful value-added map products . This development may have a great commercial pay-off in diverse areas, such as cartography, telecommunications, video games, and civil engineering. The advent of techniques for extracting information (including accurate terrain and 3D feature information) from high resolution optical satellite data, automatically, is critical to reducing the cost of the information, and therefore making it marketable. Currently, prices of value-added products are driven by the cost of labor, since the manual extraction process being used today is extremely labor intensive. Automated approaches, using far less operator editing than the complete manual process, offers the promise of being able to produce competitive products from satellite optical image data.