A parallel algorithm for viewshed analysis in three-dimensional Digital Earth

Feng Wang, Gang Wang, Deji Pan, Yuan Liu, Liuzhong Yang and Hongbo Wang
In Computers & Geosciences, 2015


Viewshed analysis, often supported by geographic information systems, is widely used in the three- dimensional (3D) Digital Earth system. Many of the analyzes involve the siting of features and real- timedecision-making. Viewshed analysis is usually performed at a large scale, which poses substantial computational challenges, as geographic datasets continue to become increasingly large. Previous re- search on viewshed analysis has been generally limited to a single data structure (i.e., DEM), which cannot be used to analyze viewsheds in complicated scenes. In this paper, a real-time algorithm for viewshed analysis in Digital Earth is presented using the parallel computing of graphics processing units (GPUs). An occlusion for each geometric entity in the neighbor space of the viewshed point is generated according to line-of-sight. The region within the occlusion is marked by a stencil buffer within the programmable 3D visualization pipeline. The marked region is drawn with red color concurrently. In contrast to traditional algorithms based on line-of-sight, the new algorithm, in which the viewshed calculation is integrated with the rendering module, is more efficient and stable. This proposed method of viewshed generation is closer to the reality of the virtual geographic environment. No DEM inter- polation, which is seen as a computational burden, is needed. The algorithm was implemented in a 3D Digital Earth system (GeoBeans3D) with the DirectX application programming interface (API) and has been widely used in a range of applications.


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doi = {10.1016/j.cageo.2014.10.012},
url = {https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.cageo.2014.10.012},
year = 2015,
month = {feb},
publisher = {Elsevier {BV}},
volume = {75},
pages = {57--65},
author = {Wang Feng and Wang Gang and Pan Deji and Liu Yuan and Yang Liuzhong and Wang Hongbo},
title = {A parallel algorithm for viewshed analysis in three-dimensional Digital Earth},
journal = {Computers & Geosciences},