Relative Radiometric Calibration of Airborne LiDAR Data for Archaeological Applications


Airborne laser scanning (ALS) data can provide more than just a topographic data set for archaeological research. During data collection, laser scanning systems also record radiometric information containing object properties, and thus information about archaeological features. Being aware of the physical model of ALS scanning, the radiometric information can be used to calculate material information of the scanned object. The reflectance of an object or material states the amount of energy it reflects for a specific electromagnetic wavelength. However, the collected radiometric data are affected by several factors that cause dissimilar values to be recorded for the same object. Radiometric calibration of such data minimizes these differences in calculated reflectance values of objects, improving their usability for feature detection and visualization purposes. Previous work dealing with calibration of radiometric data in archaeological research has relied on corresponding in-field measurements to acquire calibration values or has only corrected for a limited number of variables. In this paper, we apply a desk-based approach in which radiometric calibration is conducted through the selection of homogenous areas of interest, without the use of in-field measurements. Together with flight and scan parameters, radiometric calibration allows for the estimation of reflectance values for returns of a single full-waveform ALS data collection flight. The resulting data are then processed into a raster reflectance map that approximates a monochromatic illumination-independent true orthoimage at the wavelength of the laser scanner. We apply this approach to data collected for an archaeological research project in western Sicily and discuss the relative merits of the uses of radiometric data in such locations as well as its wider applicability for present and future archaeological and environmental research. In order to make the approach more accessible, we have developed a freely available tool that allows users to apply the calibration procedure to their own data.

Remote Sensing
Michael Doneus
Michael Doneus
Key Researcher