The use of context in the classification of urban aerial imagery

  • A.J. Buchanan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Urban regions present some of the most challenging areas for the remote sensing
community. Many different types of land cover have similar spectral responses, making them difficult to distinguish from one another. Traditional per-pixel classification techniques suffer particularly badly because they only use these spectral properties to determine a class, and no other properties of the image, such as context.
This project presents the results of the classification of a deeply urban area of Dudley, West Midlands, using 4 methods: Supervised Maximum Likelihood, SMAP, ECHO and Unsupervised Maximum Likelihood. An accuracy assessment method is then developed to allow a fair representation of each procedure and a direct comparison between them.
Subsequently, a classification procedure is developed that makes use of the context in the image, though a per-polygon classification. The imagery is broken up into a series of polygons extracted from the Marr-Hildreth zero-crossing edge detector. These polygons are then refined using a region-growing algorithm, and then classified according to the mean class of the fine polygons. The imagery produced by this technique is shown to be of better quality and of a higher accuracy than that of other conventional methods. Further refinements are suggested and examined to improve the aesthetic appearance of the imagery.
Finally a comparison with the results produced from a previous study of the James Bridge catchment, in Darleston, West Midlands, is made, showing that the Polygon classified ATM imagery performs significantly better than the Maximum Likelihood classified videography used in the initial study, despite the presence of geometric correction errors.
Date of AwardNov 2000
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn Elgy (Supervisor)


  • remote sensing
  • per-polygon classification
  • accuracy assessment
  • ATM

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