A spatio-temporal index for aerial full waveform laser scanning data

Debra F. Laefer, Anh Vu Vo, Michela Bertolotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aerial laser scanning is increasingly available in the full waveform version of the raw signal, which can provide greater insight into and control over the data and, thus, richer information about the scanned scenes. However, when compared to conventional discrete point storage, preserving raw waveforms leads to vastly larger and more complex data volumes. To begin addressing these challenges, this paper introduces a novel bi-level approach for storing and indexing full waveform (FWF) laser scanning data in a relational database environment, while considering both the spatial and the temporal dimensions of that data. In the storage scheme's upper level, the full waveform datasets are partitioned into spatial and temporal coherent groups that are indexed by a two-dimensional R-tree. To further accelerate intra-block data retrieval, at the lower level a three-dimensional local octree is created for each pulse block. The local octrees are implemented in-memory and can be efficiently written to a database for reuse. The indexing solution enables scalable and efficient three-dimensional (3D) spatial and spatio-temporal queries on the actual pulse data - functionalities not available in other systems. The proposed FWF laser scanning data solution is capable of managing multiple FWF datasets derived from large flight missions. The flight structure is embedded into the data storage model and can be used for querying predicates. Such functionality is important to FWF data exploration since aircraft locations and orientations are frequently required for FWF data analyses. Empirical tests on real datasets of up to 1 billion pulses from Dublin, Ireland prove the almost perfect scalability of the system. The use of the local 3D octree in the indexing structure accelerated pulse clipping by 1.2–3.5 times for non-axis-aligned (NAA) polyhedron shaped clipping windows, while axis-aligned (AA) polyhedron clipping was better served using only the top indexing layer. The distinct behaviours of the hybrid indexing for AA and NAA clipping windows are attributable to the different proportion of the local-index-related overheads with respect to the total querying costs. When temporal constraints were added, generally the number of costly spatial checks were reduced, thereby shortening the querying times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-251
Number of pages20
JournalISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Aerial laser scanning
  • Full waveform
  • LiDAR
  • Octree
  • R-tree
  • Spatial database
  • Spatial indexing
  • Spatio-temporal database

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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