Features, Color Spaces, and Boosting: New Insights on Semantic Classification of Remote Sensing Images

A major yet largely unsolved problem in the semantic classification of very high resolution remotesensing images is the design and selection of appropriate features. At a ground sampling distance below half a meter, fine-grained texture details of objects emerge and lead to a large intraclass variability while generally keeping the between-class variability at a low level. Usually, the user makes an educated guess on what features seem to appropriately capture characteristic object class patterns. Here, we propose to avoid manual feature selection and let a boosting classifier choose optimal features from a vast Randomized Quasi-Exhaustive (RQE) set of feature candidates directly during training. This RQE feature set consists of a multitude of very simple features that are computed efficiently via integral images inside a sliding window.

This simple but comprehensive feature candidate set enables the boosting classifier to assemble the most discriminative textures at different scale levels to classify a small number of broad urban land-cover classes. We do an extensive evaluation on several data sets and compare performance against multiple feature extraction baselines in different color spaces. In addition, we verify experimentally if we gain any classification accuracy if moving from boosting stumps to trees. Cross-validation minimizes the possible bias caused by specific training/testing setups. It turns out that boosting in combination with the proposed RQE feature set outperforms all baseline features while still remaining computationally efficient. Particularly boosting trees (instead of stumps) captures class patterns so well that results suggest to completely leave feature selection to the classifier.

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