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A cloud detection algorithm for satellite imagery based on deep learning

Jeppesen, Jacob Høxbroe, Jacobsen, Rune Hylsberg, Inceoglu, Fadil, Toftegaard, Thomas Skjødeberg
Remote sensing of environment 2019 v.229 pp. 247-259
Landsat, algorithms, artificial intelligence, cloud cover, data collection, ecosystems, ice, image analysis, model validation, models, remote sensing, snow
Reliable detection of clouds is a critical pre-processing step in optical satellite based remote sensing. Currently, most methods are based on classifying invidual pixels from their spectral signatures, therefore they do not incorporate the spatial patterns. This often leads to misclassifications of highly reflective surfaces, such as human made structures or snow/ice. Multi-temporal methods can be used to alleviate this problem, but these methods introduce new problems, such as the need of a cloud-free image of the scene. In this paper, we introduce the Remote Sensing Network (RS-Net), a deep learning model for detection of clouds in optical satellite imagery, based on the U-net architecture. The model is trained and evaluated using the Landsat 8 Biome and SPARCS datasets, and it shows state-of-the-art performance, especially over biomes with hardly distinguishable scenery, such as clouds over snowy and icy regions. In particular, the performance of the model that uses only the RGB bands is significantly improved, showing promising results for cloud detection with smaller satellites with limited multi-spectral capabilities. Furthermore, we show how training the RS-Net models on data from an existing cloud masking method, which are treated as noisy data, leads to increased performance compared to the original method. This is validated by using the Fmask algorithm to annotate the Landsat 8 datasets, and then use these annotations as training data for regularized RS-Net models, which then show improved performance compared to the Fmask algorithm. Finally, the classification time of a full Landsat 8 product is 18.0 ± 2.4 s for the largest RS-Net model, thereby making it suitable for production environments.