An increasing number of three-dimensional (3D) building models are being made available on Web-based model-sharing platforms. Motivated by the concept of data reuse, an encoding approach is proposed for 3D building model retrieval using point clouds acquired by airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) systems. To encode LiDAR point clouds with sparse, noisy, and incomplete sampling, we introduce a novel encoding scheme based on a set of low-frequency spherical harmonic basis functions. These functions provide compact representation and ease the encoding difficulty coming from inherent noises of point clouds. Additionally, a data filling and resampling technique is proposed to solve the aliasing problem caused by the sparse and incomplete sampling of point clouds. Qualitative and quantitative analyses of LiDAR data show a clear superiority of the proposed method over related methods. A cyber campus generated by retrieving 3D building models with airborne LiDAR point clouds demonstrates the feasibility of the proposed method.
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