Workshop: Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning

Optimizing toward efficiency for SAR image ship detection

Arthur Van Meerbeeck · Ruben Cartuyvels · Jordy Van Landeghem


The detection and prevention of illegal fishing is critical to maintaining a healthy and functional ecosystem. Recent research on ship detection in satellite imagery has focused exclusively on performance improvements, disregarding detection efficiency. However, the speed and compute cost of vessel detection are essential for a timely intervention to prevent illegal fishing. Therefore, we investigated optimization methods that lower detection time and cost with minimal performance loss. We trained an object detection model based on a convolutional neural network (CNN) using a dataset of satellite images. Then, we designed two efficiency optimizations that can be applied to the base CNN or any other base model. The optimizations consist of a fast, cheap classification model and a statistical algorithm. The integration of the optimizations with the object detection model leads to a trade-off between speed and performance. We studied the trade-off using metrics that give different weight to execution time and performance. We show that by using a classification model the average precision of the detection model can be approximated to 0.5% in 44% of the time or to 7.3% in 25% of the time.

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