When side-scan sonars collect data, sonar energy attenuation, the residual of time varying gain, beam patterns, angular responses, and sonar altitude variations occur, which lead to an uneven gray level in side-scan sonar images. Therefore, gray scale correction is needed before further processing of side-scan sonar images. In this paper, we introduce the causes of gray distortion in side-scan sonar images and the commonly used optical and side-scan sonar gray scale correction methods. As existing methods cannot effectively correct distortion, we propose a simple, yet effective gray scale correction method for side-scan sonar images based on Retinex given the characteristics of side-scan sonar images. Firstly, we smooth the original image and add a constant as an illumination map. Then, we divide the original image by the illumination map to produce the reflection map. Finally, we perform element-wise multiplication between the reflection map and a constant coefficient to produce the final enhanced image. Two different schemes are used to implement our algorithm. For gray scale correction of side-scan sonar images, the proposed method is more effective than the latest similar methods based on the Retinex theory, and the proposed method is faster. Experiments prove the validity of the proposed method.
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