Authors: Jin Liu, Shunping Ji Description: A great deal of research has demonstrated recently that multi-view stereo (MVS) matching can be solved with deep learning methods. However, these efforts were focused on close-range objects and only a very few of the deep learning-based methods were specifically designed for large-scale 3D urban reconstruction due to the lack of multi-view aerial image benchmarks. In this paper, we present a synthetic aerial dataset, called the WHU dataset, we created for MVS tasks, which, to our knowledge, is the first large-scale multi-view aerial dataset. It was generated from a highly accurate 3D digital surface model produced from thousands of real aerial images with precise camera parameters. We also introduce in this paper a novel network, called RED-Net, for wide-range depth inference, which we developed from a recurrent encoder-decoder structure to regularize cost maps across depths and a 2D fully convolutional network as framework. RED-Net’s low memory requirements and high performance make it suitable for large-scale and highly accurate 3D Earth surface reconstruction. Our experiments confirmed that not only did our method exceed the current state-of-the-art MVS methods by more than 50% mean absolute error (MAE) with less memory and computational cost, but its efficiency as well. It outperformed one of the best commercial software programs based on conventional methods, improving their efficiency 16 times over. Moreover, we proved that our RED-Net model pre-trained on the synthetic WHU dataset can be efficiently transferred to very different multi-view aerial image datasets without any fine-tuning. Dataset and code are available at http://gpcv.whu.edu.cn/data.