Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 559–577 | Cite as

Improving seabed classification from Multi-Beam Echo Sounder (MBES) backscatter data with visual data mining

  • Kazi Ishtiak Ahmed
  • Urška Demšar


Multi-Beam Echo Sounders are often used for classification of seabed type, as there exists a strong link between sonar backscatter and sediment characteristics of the seabed. Most of the methods for seabed classification from MBES backscatter create a highly-dimensional data set of statistical features and then use a combination of Principal Component Analysis and k-means clustering to derive classes. This procedure can be time consuming for contemporary large MBES data sets with millions of records. This paper examines the complexity of one of most commonly used classification approaches and suggests an alternative where feature data set is optimised in terms of dimensionality using computational and visual data mining. Both the original and the optimised method are tested on an MBES backscatter data set and validated against ground truth. The study found that the optimised method improves accuracy of classification and reduced complexity of processing. This is an encouraging result, which shows that bringing together methods from acoustic classification, visual data mining, spatial analysis and remote sensing can support the unprecedented increases in data volumes collected by contemporary acoustic sensors.


Multi-Beam Echo Sounder Seabed classification Visual data mining Self-Organising Maps Cluster validation Mapping accuracy 



The authors would like to thank Geological Survey or Ireland (GSI) for access to the MBES and ground truth data sets and in particular Xavier Monteys from GSI for his generous support and feedback. Research presented in this paper was partially funded by a Strategic Research Cluster grant (07/SRC/I1168) by Science Foundation Ireland under the National Development Plan, when both authors were working at the National Centre for Geocomputation at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Informatics InstituteAlgoma UniversitySault Ste. MarieCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Geoinformatics, School of Geography & GeosciencesUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK

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