Enhanced feature extraction for ship detection from multi-resolution and multi-scene synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images

Fei Gao, Wei Shi, Jun Wang, Erfu Yang, Huiyu Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Independent of daylight and weather conditions, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images have been widely used for ship monitoring. The traditional methods for SAR ship detection are highly dependent on the statistical models of sea clutter or some predefined thresholds, and generally require a multi-step operation, which results in time-consuming and less robust ship detection. Recently, deep learning algorithms have found wide applications in ship detection from SAR images. However, due to the multi-resolution imaging mode and complex background, it is hard for the network to extract representative SAR target features, which limits the ship detection performance. In order to enhance the feature extraction ability of the network, three improvement techniques have been developed. Firstly, multi-level sparse optimization of SAR image is carried out to handle clutters and sidelobes so as to enhance the discrimination of the features of SAR images. Secondly, we hereby propose a novel split convolution block (SCB) to enhance the feature representation of small targets, which divides the SAR images into smaller sub-images as the input of the network. Finally, a spatial attention block (SAB) is embedded in the feature pyramid network (FPN) to reduce the loss of spatial information, during the dimensionality reduction process. In this paper, experiments on the multi-resolution SAR images of GaoFen-3 and Sentinel-1 under complex backgrounds are carried out and the results verify the effectiveness of SCB and SAB. The comparison results also show that the proposed method is superior to several state-of-the-art object detection algorithms.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2694
Number of pages22
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2019


  • feature enhancement
  • ship detection
  • spatial attention block (SAB)
  • split convolution block (SCB)


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