The assessment of building damage following a natural disaster is a crucial step in determining the impact of the event itself and gauging reconstruction needs. Automatic methods for deriving damage maps from remotely sensed data are preferred, since they are regarded as being rapid and objective. We propose an algorithm for performing unsupervised building segmentation and damage assessment using airborne light detection and ranging (lidar) data. Local surface properties, including normal vectors and curvature, were used along with region growing to segment individual buildings in lidar point clouds. Damaged building candidates were identified based on rooftop inclination angle, and then damage was assessed using planarity and point height metrics. Validation of the building segmentation and damage assessment techniques were performed using airborne lidar data collected after the Haiti earthquake of 2010. Building segmentation and damage assessment accuracies of 93.8% and 78.9%, respectively, were obtained using lidar point clouds and expert damage assessments of 1953 buildings in heavily damaged regions. We believe this research presents an indication of the utility of airborne lidar remote sensing for increasing the efficiency and speed at which emergency response operations are performed.
Rapid knowledge of road network conditions is vital to formulate an efficient emergency response plan following any major disaster. Fallen buildings, immobile vehicles, and other forms of debris often render roads impassable to responders. The status of roadways is generally determined through time and resource heavy methods, such as field surveys and manual interpretation of remotely sensed imagery. Airborne lidar systems provide an alternative, cost-e↵ective option for performing network assessments. The 3D data can be collected quickly over a wide area and provide valuable insight about the geometry and structure of the scene. This paper presents a method for automatically detecting and characterizing debris in roadways using airborne lidar data. Points falling within the road extent are extracted from the point cloud and clustered into individual objects using region growing. Objects are classified as debris or non-debris using surface properties and contextual cues. Debris piles are reconstructed as surfaces using alpha shapes, from which an estimate of debris volume can be computed. Results using real lidar data collected after a natural disaster are presented. Initial results indicate that accurate debris maps can be automatically generated using the proposed method. These debris maps would be an invaluable asset to disaster management and emergency response teams attempting to reach survivors despite a crippled transportation network.