The receiver operating characteristic (ROC curve), which is a plot of the probability of detection as a function of the probability of false alarm, plays a key role in the classical analysis of detector performance. However, meaningful characterization of the ROC curve is challenging when practically important complications such as variations in source emissions, environmental impacts on the signal propagation, uncertainties in the sensor response, and multiple sources of interference are considered. In this paper, a relatively simple but realistic model for scattered signals is employed to explore how parametric uncertainties impact the ROC curve. In particular, we show that parametric uncertainties in the mean signal and noise power substantially raise the tails of the distributions; since receiver operation with a very low probability of false alarm and a high probability of detection is normally desired, these tails lead to severely degraded performance. Because full a priori knowledge of such parametric uncertainties is rarely available in practice, analyses must typically be based on a finite sample of environmental states, which only partially characterize the range of parameter variations. We show how this effect can lead to misleading assessments of system performance. For the cases considered, approximately 64 or more statistically independent samples of the uncertain parameters are needed to accurately predict the probabilities of detection and false alarm. A connection is also described between selection of suitable distributions for the uncertain parameters, and Bayesian adaptive methods for inferring the parameters.
D. Keith Wilson, Daniel J. Breton, Carl R. Hart, and Chris L. Pettit, "Impact of signal scattering and parametric uncertainties on receiver operating characteristics," Proc. SPIE 10200, Signal Processing, Sensor/Information Fusion, and Target Recognition XXVI, 1020018 (Presented at SPIE Defense + Security: April 12, 2017; Published: 2 May 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2266422.
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