Marcus V. A. Andrade, Salles V. G. de Magalhães, Mirella A. de Magalhães, W. Randolph Franklin, and Barbara M. Cutler. Efficient viewshed computation on terrain in external memory. Geoinformatica, 2010. (online 26 Nov 2009). URL:, doi:
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The recent availability of detailed geographic data permits terrain applications to process large areas at high resolution. However the required massive data processing presents significant challenges, demanding algorithms optimized for bothdata movement and computation. One such application is viewshed computation,that is, to determine all the points visible from a given point p. In this paper, we present an efficient algorithm to compute viewsheds on terrain stored in external memory. In the usual case where the observer’s radius of interest is smaller than the terrain size, the algorithm complexity is θ(scan(n2)) where n2 is the number of points in an n×n DEM and scan(n2)is the minimum number of I/O operations required to read n2 contiguous items from external memory. This is much faster than existing published algorithms.

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