Abstract

We address the problem of small-target detection with a polarimetric imager that provides orthogonal state contrast images. Such active systems allow one to measure the degree of polarization of the light backscattered by purely depolarizing isotropic materials. To be independent of the spatial nonuniformities of the illumination beam, small-target detection on the orthogonal state contrast image must be performed without using the image of backscattered intensity. We thus propose and develop a simple and efficient target detection algorithm based on a nonlinear pointwise transformation of the orthogonal state contrast image followed by a maximum-likelihood algorithm optimal for additive Gaussian perturbations. We demonstrate the efficiency of this suboptimal technique in comparison with the optimal one, which, however, assumes a priori knowledge about the scene that is not available in practice. We illustrate the performance of this approach on both simulated and real polarimetric images.

© 2001 Optical Society of America

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