Sidescan sonar is increasingly accepted as the sensor of choice for sea minehunting over large areas in shallow water. Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) algorithms are therefore being developed to assist and, in the case of autonomous vehicles, even replace the human operator as the primary recognition agent deciding whether an object in the sonar imagery is a mine or simply benign seafloor clutter. Whether ATR aids or replaces a human operator, a natural benchmark for judging the quality of ATR is the unaided human performance when ATR is not used. The benchmark can help when estimating the performance benefit (or cost) of switching from human to automatic recognition for instance, or when planning how human and machine should best interact in cooperative search operations. This paper reports a human performance study using a large library of real sonar images collected for the development and testing of ATR algorithms. The library features 234 mine-like man-made objects deployed for the purpose, as well as 105 instances of naturally occurring clutter. The human benchmark in this case is the average of ten human subjects expressed in terms of a receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve. An ATR algorithm for man-made/natural object discrimination is also tested and compared with the human benchmark . The implications of its relative performance for the integration of ATR are considered.
With research on autonomous underwater vehicles for minehunting beginning to focus on cooperative and adaptive behaviours, some effort is being spent on developing automatic target recognition (ATR) algorithms that are able to operate with high reliability under a wide range of scenarios, particularly in areas of high clutter density, and without human supervision. Because of the great diversity of pattern recognition methods and continuously improving sensor technology, there is an acute requirement for objective performance measures that are independent of any particular sensor, algorithm or target definitions.
This paper approaches the ATR problem from the point of view of information theory in an attempt to place bounds on the performance of target classification algorithms that are based on the acoustic shadow of proud targets. Performance is bounded by analysing the simplest of shape classification tasks, that of differentiating between a circular and square shadow, thus allowing us to isolate system design criteria and assess their effect on the overall probability of classification. The information that can be used for target recognition in sidescan sonar imagery is examined and common information theory relationships are used to derive properties of the ATR problem. Some common bounds with analytical solutions are also derived.