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Unsupervised building detection in complex urban environments from multispectral satellite imagery

Erener, Arzu
Ulusoy, İlkay
Duzgun, Sebnem
A generic algorithm is presented for automatic extraction of buildings and roads from complex urban environments in high-resolution satellite images where the extraction of both object types at the same time enhances the performance. The proposed approach exploits spectral properties in conjunction with spatial properties, both of which actually provide complementary information to each other. First, a high-resolution pansharpened colour image is obtained by merging the high-resolution panchromatic (PAN) and the low-resolution multispectral images yielding a colour image at the resolution of the PAN band. Natural and man-made regions are classified and segmented by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). Shadow regions are detected by the chromaticity to intensity ratio in the YIQ colour space. After the classification of the vegetation and the shadow areas, the rest of the image consists of man-made areas only. The man-made areas are partitioned by mean shift segmentation where some resulting segments are irrelevant to buildings in terms of shape. These artefacts are eliminated in two steps: First, each segment is thinned using morphological operations and its length is compared to a threshold which is determined according to the empirical length of the buildings. As a result, long segments which most probably represent roads are masked out. Second, the erroneous thin artefacts which are classified by principal component analysis (PCA) are removed. In parallel to PCA, small artefacts are wiped out based on morphological processes as well. The resultant man-made mask image is overlaid on the ground-truth image, where the buildings are previously labelled, for the accuracy assessment of the methodology. The method is applied to Quickbird images (2.4 m multispectral R, G, B, near-infrared (NIR) bands and 0.6 m PAN band) of eight different urban regions, each of which includes different properties of surface objects. The images are extending from simple to complex urban area. The simple image type includes a regular urban area with low density and regular building pattern. The complex image type involves almost all kinds of challenges such as small and large buildings, regions with bare soil, vegetation areas, shadows and so on. Although the performance of the algorithm slightly changes for various urban complexity levels, it performs well for all types of urban areas.