In a wide range of applications, images convey useful information about scenes. The “utility” of an image is defined with reference to the specific task that an observer seeks to accomplish, and differs from the “fidelity” of the image, which seeks to capture the ability of the image to represent the true nature of the scene. In remote sensing of the earth, various means of characterizing the utility of satellite and airborne imagery have evolved over the years. Recent advances in the imaging modality of spectral imaging have enabled synoptic views of the earth at many finely sampled wavelengths over a broad spectral band. These advances challenge the ability of traditional earth observation image utility metrics to describe the rich information content of spectral images. Traditional approaches to image utility that are based on overhead panchromatic image interpretability by a human observer are not applicable to spectral imagery, which requires automated processing. This research establishes the context for spectral image utility by reviewing traditional approaches and current methods for describing spectral image utility. It proposes a new approach to assessing and predicting spectral image utility for the specific application of target detection. We develop a novel approach to assessing the utility of any spectral image using the target-implant method. This method is not limited by the requirements of traditional target detection performance assessment, which need ground truth and an adequate number of target pixels in the scene. The flexibility of this approach is demonstrated by assessing the utility of a wide range of real and simulated spectral imagery over a variety ii of target detection scenarios. The assessed image utility may be summarized to any desired level of specificity based on the image analysis requirements. We also present an approach to predicting spectral image utility that derives statistical parameters directly from an image and uses them to model target detection algorithm output. The image-derived predicted utility is directly comparable to the assessed utility and the accuracy of prediction is shown to improve with statistical models that capture the non-Gaussian behavior of real spectral image target detection algorithm outputs. The sensitivity of the proposed spectral image utility metric to various image chain parameters is examined in detail, revealing characteristics, requirements, and limitations that provide insight into the relative importance of parameters in the image utility. The results of these investigations lead to a better understanding of spectral image information vis-à-vis target detection performance that will hopefully prove useful to the spectral imagery analysis community and represent a step towards quantifying the ability of a spectral image to satisfy information exploitation requirements.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Remote sensing--Data processing; Image processing--Digital techniques

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Department, Program, or Center

Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)


Messinger, David

Advisor/Committee Member

Salvaggio, Carl

Advisor/Committee Member

DeLorenzo, Joseph


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: TA1637 .S72 2008


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