Thursday, August 14, 2014

Image Processing Using Orfeo Toolbox in QGIS

Satellite and aerial images are more than pretty pictures.  Each image contains a wealth of data that can be queried, modified, extracted, and visualized through simple and advanced techniques.  This blog entry will cover a few basic tools in the Orfeo Toolbox in QGIS.  Instructions for installing Orfeo Toolbox in the QGIS processing toolbox can be found be clicking here.  There is also a standalone Monteverdi 2 program.

Quick Background on Orfeo Toolbox
The toolbox, often abbreviated OTB, was created to promote the use of several French satellites.  Like many programs, the algorithms are geared towards popular satellites.  For more on its creation, visit:

After following the instructions above, go under "Processing" and make sure the "Toolbox" is selected. You will see Orfeo's tools grouped into what types of functions they perform.

Screenshot of Orfeo Toolbox in QGIS's Processing Toolbox
Feature Extraction, Identification, and Classification
Extracting features from imagery is an extremely powerful tool.  For example, roads can be extracted from imagery.  Edges of images and line segments can be detected.  They can a provide a quick unique source of data for areas large and small.  Click on any of the images below to get a closer look.

Extracted edges of buildings at a college campus.

Line segment detection: In this case the lines of a tennis court (and fencing).
The tan lines are generated by the software.
Line segments differentiating a road, sidewalk, and  nearby grass.
Images can also be searched for specific objects. to automate their discovery. Image classification, groupings based on spectral characteristics, whether supervised or unsupervised, is another post in itself.

Change Detection
Another important aspect of imagery is detecting changes over time, whether something is new, absent, modified, or (re)moved.

Left: Unpainted roof, Center: Roof painted red, Right: Change Detection of Roof
Remote sensing and image processing are technical fields.  There is a significant amount of documentation (hundreds of pages) on the Orfeo Toolbox website. A shortened manual and a series of short practical exercises could help to expand its user base.  If you work in remote sensing and image processing, be sure to check out this fantastic resource!


  1. I am trying config otb in QGIS 2.18.0 but I can't I need help please

  2. can you post info in detail on how to extract a feature like roads