Compact polarimetric synthetic aperture radar (CP SAR), as a new technique or observation system, has attracted much attention in recent years. Compared with quad-polarization SAR (QP SAR), CP SAR provides an observation with a wider swath, while, compared with linear dual-polarization SAR, retains more polarization information in observations. These characteristics make CP SAR a useful tool in marine environmental applications. Previous studies showed the potential of CP SAR images for ship detection. However, false alarms, caused by ocean clutter and the lack of detailed information about ships, largely hinder traditional methods from feature selection for ship discrimination. In this paper, a segmentation method designed specifically for ship detection from CP SAR images is proposed. The pixel-wise detection is based on a fully convolutional network (i.e., U-Net). In particular, three classes (ship, land, and sea) were considered in the classification scheme. To extract features, a series of down-samplings with several convolutions were employed. Then, to generate classifications, deep semantic and shallow high-resolution features were used in up-sampling. Experiments on several CP SAR images simulated from Gaofen-3 QP SAR images demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed method. Compared with Faster RCNN (region-based convolutional neural network), which is considered a popular and effective deep learning network for object detection, the newly proposed method, with precision and recall greater than 90% and a F1
score of 0.912, performs better at ship detection. Additionally, findings verify the advantages of the CP configuration compared with single polarization and linear dual-polarization.
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