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Information Content of Very-High-Resolution SAR Images: Semantics, Geospatial Context, and Ontologies

Information Content of Very-High-Resolution SAR Images: Semantics, Geospatial Context, and Ontologies Currently, the amount of collected Earth Observation (EO) data is increasing considerably with a rate of several Terabytes of data per day. As a consequence of this increasing data volume, new concepts for exploration and information retrieval are urgently needed. To this end, we propose to explore satelliteimage data via an image information mining (IIM) approach in which the main steps are feature extraction, classification, semantic annotation, and interactive query processing. This leads to a new process chain and a robust taxonomy for the retrieved categories capitalizing on human interaction and judgment. We concentrated on land cover categories that can be retrieved from high-resolution synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images of the spaceborne TerraSAR-X instrument, where we annotated different urban areas all over the world and defined a taxonomy element for each prevailing surface cover category. The annotation resulted from a test dataset comprising more than 100 scenes covering diverse areas of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America. The scenes were grouped into several collections with similar source areas and each collection was processed separately in order to discern regional characteristics. In the first processing step, each scene was tiled into patches. Then the features were extracted from each patch by a Gabor filter bank and a support vector machine with relevance feedback classifying the feature sets into user-oriented land cover categories. Finally, the categories were semantically annotated using Google Earth for ground truthing. The annotation followed a multilevel approach that allowed the fusion of information being visible on different resolution levels. The novelty of this paper lies in the fact that a semantic annotation was performed with a large number of high-resolution radar images that allowed the definition of more than 850 surface cover categories. This opens the way toward an automated identification – nd classification of urban areas, infrastructure (e.g., airports), geographic objects (e.g., mountains), industrial installations, military compounds, vegetation, and agriculture. Applications that may result from this work can be a semantic catalog of urban images to be used in crisis situations or after a disaster. In addition, the proposed taxonomies can become a basis for building a semantic catalog of satelliteimages. Finally, we defined four powerful types of high-level queries. Querying on such high levels provides new opportunities for users to search an image database for specific parameters or semantic relationships.

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