Improving image quality in poor visibility conditions using a physical model for contrast degradation

John P. Oakley, Brenda L. Satherley

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In daylight viewing conditions, image contrast is often significantly degraded by atmospheric aerosols such as haze and fog. This paper introduces a method for reducing this degradation in situations in which the scene geometry is known. Contrast is lost because light is scattered toward the sensor by the aerosol particles and because the light reflected by the terrain is attenuated by the aerosol. This degradation is approximately characterized by a simple, physically based model with three parameters. The method involves two steps: first, an inverse problem is solved in order to recover the three model parameters; then, for each pixel, the relative contributions of scattered and reflected flux are estimated. The estimated scatter contribution is simply subtracted from the pixel value and the remainder is scaled to compensate for aerosol attenuation. This paper describes the image processing algorithm and presents an analysis of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) in the resulting enhanced image. This analysis shows that the SNR decreases exponentially with range. A temporal filter structure is proposed to solve this problem. Results are presented for two image sequences taken from an airborne camera in hazy conditions and one sequence in clear conditions. A satisfactory agreement between the model and the experimental data is shown for the haze conditions. A significant improvement in image quality is demonstrated when using the contrast enhancement algorithm in conjuction with a temporal filter. © 1998 IEEE.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)167-179
    Number of pages12
    JournalIEEE Transactions on Image Processing
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1998


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