Filling the voids in the SRTM elevation model — A TIN-based delta surface approach


The Digital Elevation Model (DEM) derived from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission is the most accurate near-global elevation model that is publicly available. However, it contains many data voids, mostly in mountainous terrain. This problem is particularly severe in the rugged Oman Mountains. This study presents a method to fill these voids using a fill surface derived from Russian military maps. For this we developed a new method, which is based on Triangular Irregular Networks (TINs). For each void, we extracted points around the edge of the void from the SRTM DEM and the fill surface. TINs were calculated from these points and converted to a base surface for each dataset. The fill base surface was subtracted from the fill surface, and the result added to the SRTM base surface. The fill surface could then seamlessly be merged with the SRTM DEM. For validation, we compared the resulting DEM to the original SRTM surface, to the fill DEM and to a surface calculated by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) from the SRTM data. We calculated the differences between measured GPS positions and the respective surfaces for 187,500 points throughout the mountain range (ΔGPS). Comparison of the means and standard deviations of these values showed that for the void areas, the fill surface was most accurate, with a standard deviation of the ΔGPS from the mean ΔGPS of 69 m, and only little accuracy was lost by merging it to the SRTM surface (standard deviation of 76 m). The CIAT model was much less accurate in these areas (standard deviation of 128 m).

ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, (62), 4,