Optical EngineeringPoint target detection in consecutive frame staring infrared imagery with evolving cloud clutter
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The problem of detection of aircraft at long range in a background of evolving cloud clutter is treated. A staring infrared camera is favored for this application due to its passive nature, day/night operation, and rapid frame rate. The rapid frame rate increases the frame-to-frame correlation of the evolving cloud clutter; cloud-clutter leakage is a prime source of false alarms. Targets of opportunity in daytime imagery were used to develop and compare two algorithm approaches: banks of spatio-temporal velocity filters followed by dynamic-programming-based stage-to-stage association, and a simple recursive temporal filter arrived at from a singular-value decomposition analysis of the data. To quantify the relative performance of the two approaches, we modify conventional metrics for signal-to-clutter gains in order to make them more germane to consecutive frame real data processing. The temporal filter, in responding preferentially to pixels influenced by moving point targets over those influenced by drifting clouds, achieves impressive cloud-clutter suppression without requiring subpixel frame registration. The velocity filter technique is roughly half as effective in clutter suppression but is twice as sensitive to weak targets in white noise (close to blue sky conditions). The real-time hardware implementation of the temporal filter is far more practical.