Towards operational satellite-based damage-mapping using U-net convolutional network: A case study of 2011 Tohoku Earthquake-Tsunami

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81 Citations (Scopus)


The satellite remote-sensing-based damage-mapping technique has played an indispensable role in rapid disaster response practice, whereas the current disaster response practice remains subject to the low damage assessment accuracy and lag in timeliness, which dramatically reduces the significance and feasibility of extending the present method to practical operational applications. Therefore, a highly efficient and intelligent remote-sensing image-processing framework is urgently required to mitigate these challenges. In this article, a deep learning algorithm for the semantic segmentation of high-resolution remote-sensing images using the U-net convolutional network was proposed to map the damage rapidly. The algorithm was implemented within a Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit framework in the GeoAI platform provided by Microsoft. The study takes the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake-Tsunami as a case study, for which the pre- and post-disaster high-resolution WorldView-2 image is used. The performance of the proposed U-net model is compared with that of deep residual U-net. The comparison highlights the superiority U-net for tsunami damage mapping in this work. Our proposed method achieves the overall accuracy of 70.9% in classifying the damage into "washed away," "collapsed," and "survived" at the pixel level. In future disaster scenarios, our proposed model can generate the damage map in approximately 2-15 min when the preprocessed remote-sensing datasets are available. Our proposed damage-mapping framework has significantly improved the application value in operational disaster response practice by substantially reducing the manual operation steps required in the actual disaster response. Besides, the proposed framework is highly flexible to extend to other scenarios and various disaster types, which can accelerate operational disaster response practice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1626
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Oct 1


  • 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami
  • Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit
  • Operational damage-mapping
  • Semantic segmentation
  • U-net convolutional neural network


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