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Propagation of vertical and horizontal source data errors into a TIN with linear interpolation

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Digital elevation models (DEMs) have been widely used for a range of applications and form the basis of many GIS-related tasks. An essential aspect of a DEM is its accuracy, which depends on a variety of factors, such as source data quality, interpolation methods, data sampling density and the surface topographical characteristics. In recent years, point measurements acquired directly from land surveying such as differential global positioning system and light detection and ranging have become increasingly popular. These topographical data points can be used as the source data for the creation of DEMs at a local or regional scale. The errors in point measurements can be estimated in some cases. The focus of this article is on how the errors in the source data propagate into DEMs. The interpolation method considered is a triangulated irregular network (TIN) with linear interpolation. Both horizontal and vertical errors in source data points are considered in this study. An analytical method is derived for the error propagation into any particular point of interest within a TIN model. The solution is validated using Monte Carlo simulations and survey data obtained from a terrestrial laser scanner.
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Keywords: DEM accuracy; error propagation; spatial interpolation; topographical survey; triangulated irregular network

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK 2: Department of Geography and Environment, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Publication date: July 3, 2014

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