I'm wondering if there is a tool, which

  1. takes a satellite map of a region,
  2. detects typical buildings and
  3. allows the user to review its result (check, whether the tool correctly identified the buildings).

By "typical buildings" I mean the following: In some regions there are buildings, which look very similar from above.

For example, single-family houses have roofs, which look nearly identical (see red ellipse in the picture below).

Single-family houses

Apartment houses also have a distinct shape.

Apartment houses

So, theoretically it should be possible to identify houses and apartment buildings automatically (with human checking the results).

Is there a tool which allows this?

Update 1 (20.11.2013 10:47): Are there any LIDAR images for Russia, which are freely available or can be purchased at low cost?

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    Building detection and 3D roof reconstruction using multispectral orthoimagery and LIDAR data (with source code) people.eng.unimelb.edu.au/mawr/BDetection.html – Mapperz Nov 18 '13 at 20:55
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    Sounds like object-based image analysis. – Chad Cooper Nov 18 '13 at 21:58
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    Your edit regarding data sources for Russian LiDAR data should be moved to a separate question. – Chad Cooper Nov 20 '13 at 9:55

As Chad Cooper mentioned, what you want to perform is called Object-Based Image Analysis (OBIA). It's a fairly complex process which segments and then classifies an image. There are many programs out there which will perform this for you. However, you will require high-resolution, multi-spectral imagery. Incorporating LiDAR will probably help you out too, if you have access to it. I don't think you'll have too much luck using the Bing imagery you show in your question. But, I've never tried it. Bing imagery has been processed to look good as a background and is presented as RGB and doesn't contain the Infrared bands which are useful at picking out rooftops.

There are entire textbooks written on the subject of OBIA. And plenty of journal articles written as well such as this one, this one, and this one.

As far as software goes, I'd look at eCognition. I haven't used it for a while, but a few years ago it was the industry leader in OBIA.

If you're looking for free solutions, apparently, Orfeo Toolbox can perform OBIA - see here. You might also want to look at SAGA-GIS and GRASS GIS. I'm sure you'll find something useful.


NY Public Library did this for scanned maps. Their code is open-source. http://www.gislounge.com/automating-extracting-gis-data-scanned-maps/


One of the best OBIA programs available for feature extraction is called Feature Analyst by Overwatch. There is a good promo video on road and building extraction here. The software is available as an extension for ArcGIS and Erdas Imagine. Unfortunately, this is not opensource software.

enter image description here


Our latest research on building detection (identification and footprints) has been integrated into Picterra's platform https://app.picterra.ch

Here's a screenshot of one output: enter image description here

Have a look at it!


I haven't seen it, but SOCET GXP claims to be able to do this, based on (potentially) multispectral imagery. It looks very capable, but I assume that capability doesn't come cheap (in terms of up-front costs for the product and the imagery, and in terms of skills development and maintenance).

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