A method of automated recognition of three-dimensional (3D) features in images generated by ground-penetrating imaging radar (GPIR) is undergoing development. GPIR 3D images can be analyzed to detect and identify such subsurface features as pipes and other utility conduits. Until now, much of the analysis of GPIR images has been performed manually by expert operators who must visually identify and track each feature. The present method is intended to satisfy a need for more efficient and accurate analysis by means of algorithms that can automatically identify and track subsurface features, with minimal supervision by human operators.

In this method, data from multiple sources (for example, data on different features extracted by different algorithms) are fused together for identifying subsurface objects. The algorithms of this method can be classified in several different ways. In one classification, the algorithms fall into three classes: (1) image-processing algorithms, (2) feature-extraction algorithms, and (3) a multiaxis data-fusion/pattern-recognition algorithm that includes a combination of machine-learning, pattern-recognition, and object-linking algorithms.

Features Representing Two Pipes were generated by applying a feature-extraction algorithm to datafrom a GPIR scan of 110th Street in New York City. This synthetic image contains the detection marksoverlaid on GPIR data from a mid-depth horizontal slice viewed from overhead. The gaps and undulationsare minimized in subsequent processing by a multiaxis data-fusion/pattern-recognition algorithm.
The image-processing class includes preprocessing algorithms for reducing noise and enhancing target features for pattern recognition. The feature-extraction algorithms operate on preprocessed data to extract such specific features in images as two-dimensional (2D) slices of a pipe. Then the multiaxis data-fusion/pattern-recognition algorithm identifies, classifies, and reconstructs 3D objects from the extracted features. In this process, multiple 2D features extracted by use of different algorithms and representing views along different directions are used to identify and reconstruct 3D objects. In object linking, which is an essential part of this process, features identified in successive 2D slices and located within a threshold radius of identical features in adjacent slices are linked in a directed-graph data structure. Relative to past approaches, this multiaxis approach offers the advantages of more reliable detections, better discrimination of objects, and provision of redundant information, which can be helpful in filling gaps in feature recognition by one of the component algorithms.

The image-processing class also includes postprocessing algorithms that enhance identified features to prepare them for further scrutiny by human analysts (see figure). Enhancement of images as a postprocessing step is a significant departure from traditional practice, in which enhancement of images is a preprocessing step.

This work was done by Han Park, Timothy Stough, and Amir Fijany of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-40698.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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