Open Data and Deep Semantic Segmentation for Automated Extraction of Building Footprints
Advances in machine learning and computer vision, combined with increased access to unstructured data (e.g., images and text), have created an opportunity for automated extraction of building characteristics, cost-effectively, and at scale. These characteristics are relevant to a variety of urban and energy applications, yet are time consuming and costly to acquire with today’s manual methods. Several recent research studies have shown that in comparison to more traditional methods that are based on features engineering approach, an end-to-end learning approach based on deep learning algorithms significantly improved the accuracy of automatic building footprint extraction from remote sensing images. However, these studies used limited benchmark datasets that have been carefully curated and labeled. How the accuracy of these deep learning-based approach holds when using less curated training data has not received enough attention. The aim of this work is to leverage the openly available data to automatically generate a larger training dataset with more variability in term of regions and type of cities, which can be used to build more accurate deep learning models. In contrast to most benchmark datasets, the gathered data have not been manually curated. Thus, the training dataset is not perfectly clean in terms of remote sensing images exactly matching the ground truth building’s foot-print. A workflow that includes data pre-processing, deep learning semantic segmentation modeling, and results post-processing is introduced and applied to a dataset that include remote sensing images from 15 cities and five counties from various region of the USA, which include 8,607,677 buildings. The accuracy of the proposed approach was measured on an out of sample testing dataset corresponding to 364,000 buildings from three USA cities. The results favorably compared to those obtained from Microsoft’s recently released US building footprint dataset.