VHRShips: An Extensive Benchmark Dataset for Scalable Deep Learning-Based Ship Detection Applications

Kızılkaya S., Algancı U., Sertel E.

ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information, vol.11, no.8, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 11 Issue: 8
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.3390/ijgi11080445
  • Journal Name: ISPRS International Journal of Geo-Information
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, CAB Abstracts, INSPEC, Veterinary Science Database, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Keywords: deep learning, optical satellite image, ship classification, end-to-end approach, dataset
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


© 2022 by the authors.The classification of maritime boats and ship targets using optical satellite imagery is a challenging subject. This research introduces a unique and rich ship dataset named Very High-Resolution Ships (VHRShips) from Google Earth images, which includes diverse ship types, different ship sizes, several inshore locations, and different data acquisition conditions to improve the scalability of ship detection and mapping applications. In addition, we proposed a deep learning-based multi-stage approach for ship type classification from very high resolution satellite images to evaluate the performance of the VHRShips dataset. Our “Hierarchical Design (HieD)” approach is an end-to-end structure that allows the optimization of the Detection, Localization, Recognition, and Identification (DLRI) stages, independently. We focused on sixteen parent ship classes for the DLR stages, and specifically considered eight child classes of the navy parent class at the identification stage. We used the Xception network in the DRI stages and implemented YOLOv4 for the localization stage. Individual optimization of each stage resulted in F1 scores of 99.17%, 94.20%, 84.08%, and 82.13% for detection, recognition, localization, and identification, respectively. The end-to-end implementation of our proposed approach resulted in F1 scores of 99.17%, 93.43%, 74.00%, and 57.05% for the same order. In comparison, end-to-end YOLOv4 yielded F1-scores of 99.17%, 86.59%, 68.87%, and 56.28% for DLRI, respectively. We achieved higher performance with HieD than YOLOv4 for localization, recognition, and identification stages, indicating the usability of the VHRShips dataset in different detection and classification models. In addition, the proposed method and dataset can be used as a benchmark for further studies to apply deep learning on large-scale geodata to boost GeoAI applications in the maritime domain.