, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 643–652 | Cite as

Earthen levee slide detection via automated analysis of synthetic aperture radar imagery

  • Lalitha Dabbiru
  • James V. Aanstoos
  • Nicolas H. Younan
Original Paper


The main focus of this research is to detect vulnerabilities on the Mississippi river levees using remotely sensed Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery. Unstable slope conditions can lead to slump slides, which weaken the levees and increase the likelihood of failure during floods. On-site inspection of levees is expensive and time-consuming, so there is a need to develop efficient automated techniques based on remote sensing technologies to identify levees that are more vulnerable to failure under flood loading. Synthetic Aperture Radar technology, due to its high spatial resolution and potential soil penetration capability, is a good choice to identify problem areas along the levee so that they can be treated to avoid possible catastrophic failure. This research analyzes the ability of detecting the slump slides on the levee with NASA JPL’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) data. The main contribution of this research is the development of a machine learning framework to (1) provide improved knowledge on the status of the levees, (2) detect anomalies on the levee sections, (3) provide early warning of impending levee failures, and (4) develop efficient tools for levee health assessment. Textural features have been computed and utilized in the classification tasks to achieve efficient levee characterization. The RX anomaly detector, a training-free unsupervised classification algorithm, detected the active slides on the levee at the time of image acquisition and also flagged some areas as “anomalous,” where new slides appeared at a later date.


Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) Image classification Discrete wavelet transform (DWT) RX Detector 



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Award No. OISE – 1243539. The authors would like to thank the US Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center and Vicksburg Levee District for providing ground truth data and expertise; and also NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for providing the UAVSAR images.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geosystems Research InstituteMississippi State UniversityMississippiUSA
  2. 2.Department of Electrical and Computer EngineeringMississippi State UniversityMississippiUSA

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