3D point clouds are a universal and discrete digital representation of three-dimensional objects and environments. For geospatial applications, 3D point clouds have become a fundamental type of raw data acquired and generated using various methods and techniques. In particular, 3D point clouds serve as raw data for creating digital twins of the built environment.
This thesis concentrates on the research and development of concepts, methods, and techniques for preprocessing, semantically enriching, analyzing, and visualizing 3D point clouds for applications around transport infrastructure. It introduces a collection of preprocessing techniques that aim to harmonize raw 3D point cloud data, such as point density reduction and scan profile detection. Metrics such as, e. g., local density, verticality, and planarity are calculated for later use. One of the key contributions tackles the problem of analyzing and deriving semantic information in 3D point clouds. Three different approaches are investigated: a geometric analysis, a machine learning approach operating on synthetically generated 2D images, and a machine learning approach operating on 3D point clouds without intermediate representation.
In the first application case, 2D image classification is applied and evaluated for mobile mapping data focusing on road networks to derive road marking vector data. The second application case investigates how 3D point clouds can be merged with ground-penetrating radar data for a combined visualization and to automatically identify atypical areas in the data. For example, the approach detects pavement regions with developing potholes. The third application case explores the combination of a 3D environment based on 3D point clouds with panoramic imagery to improve visual representation and the detection of 3D objects such as traffic signs.
The presented methods were implemented and tested based on software frameworks for 3D point clouds and 3D visualization. In particular, modules for metric computation, classification
procedures, and visualization techniques were integrated into a modular pipeline-based C++ research framework for geospatial data processing, extended by Python machine learning scripts. All visualization and analysis techniques scale to large real-world datasets such as road networks of entire cities or railroad networks.
The thesis shows that some use cases allow taking advantage of established image vision methods to analyze images rendered from mobile mapping data efficiently. The two presented semantic classification methods working directly on 3D point clouds are use case independent and show similar overall accuracy when compared to each other. While the geometry-based method requires less computation time, the machine learning-based method supports arbitrary semantic classes but requires training the network with ground truth data. Both methods can be used in combination to gradually build this ground truth with manual corrections via a respective annotation tool.
This thesis contributes results for IT system engineering of applications, systems, and services that require spatial digital twins of transport infrastructure such as road networks and railroad networks based on 3D point clouds as raw data. It demonstrates the feasibility of fully automated data flows that map captured 3D point clouds to semantically classified models. This provides a key component for seamlessly integrated spatial digital twins in IT solutions that require up-to-date, object-based, and semantically enriched information about the built environment.