Our journey to creating 3D building footprint maps at scale

LuxCarta can automatically extract building footprints from satellite images over vast areas. Find out more about how our solution works.

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Our journey to creating 3D building footprint maps at scale

LuxCarta can automatically extract building footprints from satellite images over vast areas. Learn more about how our solution works and the story behind our innovations.

At a glance:

  • Extracting building footprints from satellite images was traditionally slow and manual
  • Our AI building footprint extraction process makes this process much faster
  • Learn how it helps you
  • Find out about our 25-year journey to automatic building footprint extraction

For many years, companies have used building footprints in their GIS maps. These layers help them better understand towns and cities and allow them to plan their projects in granular detail. 

However, until recently, extracting building footprints from a satellite image was laborious, time-consuming, and manual. Identifying individual structures in an image and then separating them from their surroundings would take skilled mapping professionals many hours. Scaling this process up to entire cities - or even countries - would require enormous amounts of time and resources. 

However, over the past 25 years, LuxCarta has developed ever-more sophisticated processes to extract building footprints from satellite images accurately. We are now uniquely capable of automatically producing 3D building footprint maps at a national - or even global - scale.

3D Buildings_Mass Coverage


LuxCarta’s 3D building footprint extraction algorithm

LuxCarta’s 3D building footprint extraction algorithm automates identifying buildings on a satellite image. Our algorithm has been trained on hundreds of thousands of satellite images and can identify buildings with more than 95% accuracy. It then extracts individual buildings from their surroundings and turns them into GIS layers. Moreover, it can also turn individual building footprints into 3D models. 

This can be beneficial in many different contexts. For example, imagine you were in charge of rolling out 5G base stations across a city. LuxCarta’s technology could rapidly identify all buildings and estimate their height and orientation. You could then use this map to plan the best location to install your devices. 

Traditionally, building footprint extraction would require large teams of trained workers to identify and ‘cut out’ building polygons from the image. Doing this at a large scale (i.e. region or country level) would typically take many months - or even years. Projects would often be delayed due to lacking skilled staff, and satellite images would soon go out of date. By contrast, LuxCarta’s AI process can produce maps for entire countries in just a few weeks (depending on size).

Customers simply tell us which city, region, or country they need the map for. We then provide quality-assured maps with building footprints quickly.

Building footprint extraction around the world with LuxCarta

Our AI-powered approach to building footprint extraction has already been used on several major projects:

  • Brazil: We successfully mapped over 140 million individual building polygons nationwide and provided detailed 3D models supporting various applications.
  • India and Malaysia: Similar efforts have resulted in extensive 3D building footprints, aiding urban planning and infrastructure development.
  • Individual towns and cities: Our building footprint extraction process has been applied at the town and city scale in dozens of municipalities worldwide.

Why do organizations need 3D building footprints at scale?

We are seeing growing interest in using 3D building footprints in multiple sectors - from telecoms to government, mining to engineering, architecture to urban planning. Using 3D building footprints at scale provides multiple benefits:

  • Makes RF Planning More Efficient: Comprehensive 3D building footprints allow for precise network planning, ensuring optimal coverage and performance.
  • Faster Implementation: Our AI-driven process significantly reduces the time needed to produce detailed maps, enabling quicker decision-making and deployment.
  • See the 'Bigger Picture': Instead of focusing on isolated sections, our maps provide a comprehensive view connecting various regions, enhancing strategic planning.
  • Consistent View for Project Managers: Uniform data across entire regions ensures consistency, reducing discrepancies and improving project coordination.
  • Cost Savings: Investing in a single, detailed map eliminates the need for multiple, less comprehensive maps, saving time and money.


Learn more: The need for 3D reconstruction from satellite images


3D building footprint maps for multiple industries

LuxCarta's 3D building footprint solutions support multiple industries: 

  • In telecommunications, 3D building footprints allow RF planners to identify obstacles and place base stations and cell towers in the most effective locations. 
  • In urban planning, our detailed 3D models assist in designing sustainable cities and optimizing land use. 
  • In the simulation and entertainment industries, our 3D building footprints allow companies to create ‘digital twins’ of the real world.

Our story: Pioneering AI in geospatial data

LuxCarta’s major strength is its ability to accurately extract 3D building footprints at scale. But this wasn’t something we introduced ‘overnight’. Instead, our approach is built on decades of producing and improving our building extraction methods.

Increasingly detailed global mapping over 25 years

LuxCarta was formed from two previous companies in 2007 (ComputaMaps and Geoimage) and has been at the forefront of global mapping for over a quarter of a century. The firm was initially focused on providing terrain maps for telecommunications companies during the GSM era and has continuously evolved to meet the increasing demands of higher-generation technologies, from 2G through to today’s 5G.

In the early days, the primary goal was to supply telcos with maps that could identify obstacles to signal propagation. As mobile technology advanced, so did the requirements for more detailed and accurate mapping. The transition from 2G to 3G, and subsequently to 4G, saw a significant increase in the granularity of maps. During the 4G period, LuxCarta was producing country-wide maps with resolutions of 10-20 meters, metropolitan areas at five meters in 2D, and 3D maps for densely populated urban regions.

The advent of 5G technology has revolutionized the telecommunications industry, and with it, the expectations for map detail and accuracy have reached unprecedented levels. Customers now require entire countries to be mapped in 3D, capturing the height of buildings, tree canopies, and terrain with exceptional precision (the high-frequency bands in 5G can be attenuated by obstacles in the urban environment, so more detailed 3D models are needed).


Related: The challenges of 5G mmWave deployment


Pioneering AI in Geospatial Data

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been a cornerstone of our approach for many years. Our extensive geospatial data archive has been instrumental in training AI models and has allowed us to undertake the colossal challenge of mapping entire countries in 3D. 

By leveraging machine learning algorithms and large datasets, we can automate the extraction and analysis of geospatial features, reducing the time and effort required for manual processing. This technological advancement has enabled us to produce highly detailed maps with a level of accuracy and speed previously unattainable. Our AI models are continuously refined and updated, ensuring we stay ahead of the curve in delivering cutting-edge mapping solutions.

The integration of AI has not only enhanced the accuracy and efficiency of our mapping processes but has also allowed us to scale our operations to meet the industry's growing demands.


The future of 3D building footprint maps

LuxCarta remains dedicated to supporting our clients with sophisticated mapping solutions as we continue to innovate and expand our capabilities. Our history of excellence and forward-thinking approach positions us as leaders in the geospatial sector, ready to tackle future challenges. 

Do you require 3D building footprint maps for your next project? LuxCarta can deliver GIS maps at any scale - from small towns to major cities to national or global-scale projects. 

Contact us today to learn more.


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