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Multi-Scale Image Fusion

Haifeng Li , Dezhen Song , Senior Member, IEEE, Yu Liu, and Binbin Li

Abstract— Pavement crack detection from images is a challeng- significant transportation system failure (e.g. airport run-

ing problem due to intensity inhomogeneity, topology complexity, ways or bridge decks), and need to be detected accurately

low contrast, and noisy texture background. Traditional learning- and timely. Therefore, it is necessary to develop an automatic

based approaches have difficulties in obtaining representative

training samples. We propose a new unsupervised multi-scale crack detection method for pavement inspection. However,

fusion crack detection (MFCD) algorithm that does not require automatic crack detection is challenging due to intensity inho-

training data. First, we develop a windowed minimal intensity mogeneity, topology complexity, low contrast, and noisy back-

path-based method to extract the candidate cracks in the image grounds [4], [5]. Since a pavement crack is usually thin and

at each scale. Second, we find the crack correspondences across long, the most distinguishable characteristic is its continuous

different scales. Finally, we develop a crack evaluation model

based on a multivariate statistical hypothesis test. Our approach property. As a result, local image-processing methods, such as

successfully combines strengths from both the large-scale detec- intensity thresholding [5], [6], and edge detection based meth-

tion (robust but poor in localization) and the small-scale detec- ods [7], [8] can only obtain a set of disjoint crack fragments

tion (detail-preserving but sensitive to clutter). We analyze and with a high false positive rate. Machine learning approaches

experimentally test the computational complexity of our MFCD have been proposed, but the selection of parameters depends

algorithm. We have implemented the algorithm and have it

extensively tested on three public data sets, including two public on pavement appearance, crack variations, and image quality.

pavement data sets and an airport runway data set. Compared Moreover, the results from these learning methods depend on

with six existing methods, experimental results show that our the quality of manually-labeled training data sets. It is labor-

method outperforms all counterparts. Specifically, it increases expensive and not easy to obtain the representative training

the precision, recall, and F1-measure over the state-of-the-art by data, especially in the real applications, because crack images

22%, 12%, and 19%, respectively, on one public data set.

have large variations due to different lighting conditions, sur-

Index Terms— Crack detection, multi-scale image fusion, face types, and background texture. Morphological methods,

pavement inspection, robotic airport runway inspection. such as the seed-based approaches [9], [10] and minimal path

selection methods [11]–[13], have been successfully used in

I. I NTRODUCTION pavement crack detection by exploiting the connectivity among

crack pixels. However, their performance usually depends

C RACKS are common pavement surface distresses that

affect road performance and periodical road surveys

are necessary to assess pavement surface conditions [1]–[3].

on the parameter choice which requires manual extensive

parameter tuning for each dataset.

In fact, crack images exhibit different characteristics at

Traditional manual crack detection methods are very time-

different scales: at a large scale, crack detection is reliable, but

consuming, labor-intensive, with low-accuracy, and error

its localization is poor and may miss thin cracks; at a small

prone. Even thin cracks may be early warning signs of

scale, details are preserved, but detection suffers greatly from

Manuscript received November 8, 2017; revised May 14, 2018; accepted clutters in background texture. However, the key challenge is

July 12, 2018. This work was supported in part by the National Sci- how to effectively combine the strengths of different scales

ence Foundation under Grant NRI-1426752, Grant NRI-1526200, and Grant to improve crack detection performance. To deal with the

NRI-1748161, in part by the National Science Foundation of China under

Grant 61305107, in part by the Industrial Robot Application of Fujian challenges, we propose a new unsupervised multi-scale fusion

University Engineering Research Center, Minjiang University, under Grant based crack detection (MFCD) algorithm that does not require

MJUKF-IRA201803 and Grant MJUKF-IRA201807, in part by the Open Fund manually-labeled training data (See Fig. 1). MFCD computes

Project of Fujian Provincial Key Laboratory of Information Processing and

Intelligent Control, Minjiang University, under Grant MJUKF201732, in part the maximum average score of cracks at different scales.

by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities under Grant By extracting crack features for every probable target scale

3122016B006, and in part by the Chinese Scholarship Council. The Associate and evaluating the cracks jointly across scales, MFCD fuses

Editor for this paper was H. G. Jung. (Corresponding author: Haifeng Li.)

H. Li and Y. Liu are with the CS Department, Civil Aviation University of and filters cracks at all scales.

China, Tianjin 300300, China, and also with the Fujian Provincial Key Labo- We have implemented our MFCD algorithm and extensively

ratory of Information Processing and Intelligent Control, Minjiang University, tested it on three datasets in comparison to six existing meth-

Fuzhou 350108, China (e-mail: hfli@cauc.edu.cn).

D. Song and B. Li are with the CSE Department, Texas A&M Uni- ods. Experimental results show that our method consistently

versity, College Station, TX 77843 USA (e-mail: dzsong@cse.tamu.edu; outperforms the counterparts. More specifically, our MFCD

binbinli@tamu.edu). algorithm increases Precision, Recall and F1-measure over the

Color versions of one or more of the figures in this paper are available

online at http://ieeexplore.ieee.org. state-of-the-art by 22%, 12% and 19%, respectively, on one

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TITS.2018.2856928 public dataset.

1524-9050 © 2018 IEEE. Personal use is permitted, but republication/redistribution requires IEEE permission.

See http://www.ieee.org/publications_standards/publications/rights/index.html for more information.

This article has been accepted for inclusion in a future issue of this journal. Content is final as presented, with the exception of pagination.

popular in recent years which include methods that build on

techniques such as support vector machines [4], [17], [18],

random forest [19], random structured forest [20], and neural

networks [21], [22]. In these learning methods, a pavement

image is often divided into a number of sub-images, each of

which is represented by a vector of features extracted from this

sub-image. These sub-images are then used for training and

classification for crack detection. However, since the training

and classification are conducted at each sub-image and as

local methods, they cannot exactly segment out crack curves

Fig. 1. An illustration of our MFCD algorithm outline. Given an original over the whole image because it often only provides a label

image, we apply Gaussian blur to generate multi-scale images with different

standard deviations σ1 < σ2 < . . . < σn representing different scales, then

to the sub-image as its output. Furthermore, a supervised

detect cracks at each scale, and finally fuse and filter cracks to obtain results. training stage is needed which requires accurately labeled data,

(a) Original image. (b) Generated multi-scale images. (c) Detected cracks at a difficult requirement for applications with large lighting and

each scale. (d) Cracks from multi-scale fusion.

scene variations.

Morphological methods [12], [23], [24] exploit the connec-

tivity among crack pixels and have been successfully used

The novelties and contributions of our paper are the

in pavement crack detection research. However, their perfor-

following:

mance are usually dependent upon the parameter choices [25]

• We propose a multi-scale crack fusion algorithm, MFCD,

which require manual extensive parameter tuning for each data

that successfully combines the strengths from both the

set. Our method is a variation of morphological methods but

large-scale detection (robust but poor in localization) and

focusing on removing arbitrary threshold selection and being

the small-scale detection (detail-preserving but sensitive

self-adaptive to different images because we employ statistic

to clutter), without any labeled training data.

parameters in the threshold setting.

• The statistical parameters and self-adaptive thresholds,

More specifically, our method builds on the existing

instead of arbitrary thresholds, are adopted in our method.

minimal intensity path based techniques which find the

The statistical parameters can guarantee the probability

best paths between pairs of endpoints of potential cracks.

to obtain the correct results, and the adaptive thresh-

Gavilán et al. [9] propose a seed-based approach by com-

olds make our method feasible in a wide range of

bining multiple directional non-minimum suppression with a

applications.

symmetry deck, where seeds are linked by computing paths

• The proposed method has shown its effectiveness and

with the lowest mean pixel intensities that meet the symmetry

superior performance in a wide range of experimental

restrictions. Kaul et al. [26] propose a method to detect the

setup and test data sets, as evident in the experimental

same types of contour-like image structures with less prior

results. No existing methods have been tested at this scale

knowledge about both the topology and the endpoints of

and variety.

the desired curves. Nguyen et al. propose a method, named

The rest of paper is organized as follows: we summarize

FFA, which takes into account brightness and connectivity

the related work in Section II before we introduce our crack

for crack detection simultaneously by introducing Free-Form

detection problem in Section III. We detail our algorithm

Anisotropy [13], [27]. FFA assumes that each crack is orga-

design in Section IV and analyze algorithm performance in V.

nized along a preferred direction, so that it can be tracked for

We test our algorithm in experiments in Section VI and

all possible pairs of endpoints. To avoid false detections caused

conclude our paper in Section VII.

by low intensity loops and remove the restriction on the shape

of the cracks, Amhaz et al. [11], [12] propose a two-stage

II. R ELATED W ORK minimal intensity path selection algorithm, named MPS, which

Popular image-based crack detection methods can be classi- first selects endpoints at the local scale and then selects min-

fied as four types: intensity thresholding methods, edge detec- imal intensity paths at the global scale. MPS method tries to

tion methods, machine learning techniques, and morphological find the path consisting of a series of neighboring pixels whose

methods. score is the sum of their intensities. Crack seeds are firstly

Intensity thresholding methods [5], [6] have been widely detected in grid cells by thresholding the pixel intensities,

studied due to their simplicity. These methods are sensitive to then paths are generated between each pair of adjacent crack

noise, leading to unreliable crack detection results especially seeds by searching in the whole image. Thereafter, two post-

for field images with significant visual clutters under poor processing steps, including elimination of artifacts and width

lighting conditions. Furthermore, selecting the appropriate detection, are introduced in MPS to improve the quality of the

threshold value is challenging. detection. Built on this approach and to improve the accuracy

Edge detection methods [7], [8] are also widely adopted. and computation speed, our new method employs statistical

However, the main drawback is that edge detection methods parameter selection in replacement of intensity parameters

can only detect a set of disjoint crack fragments and often fail to improve the robustness, adopts crack seeds clustering and

in low-contrast and high-clutter images. removal step to reduce the searching region in the following

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Fig. 2. An illustration of our windowed minimal intensity path based crack detection method. (a) Original pavement image. (b) Crack seed extraction results.

(c) Crack seed clustering and filtering illustration. (d) WMIP generation result. (e) Path verification results. (f) Crack region detection by path growing.

path generation, and designs the windowed path generation algorithm as illustrated in Fig. 1. First, we generate the multi-

algorithm to decease the computing time. scale images by Gaussian blurring with different kernel sizes.

Our MFCD algorithm is also inspired by multi-scale analy- Second, we find the candidate cracks at each scale by utilizing

sis methods which capture the intrinsic geometrical structure a windowed minimal intensity path selection based method.

that is key in human visual perception. Existing techniques, Finally, we determine the cracks correspondence across dif-

such as wavelet transforms [28], particle filters [29], beamlet ferent scales and propose a statistical crack evaluation model

transform [30], are essential different types of multi-scale to compute the average score of each crack at different scales

methods. The main challenge of these multi-scale analysis for crack fusion.

methods is to select the right scale for identifying useful

features or how to combine the detections at different scales

A. Multi-Scale Images Generation

to form output. Most approaches take a simplistic cue com-

bination: they either accept results (after thresholding) at all Using Gaussian blurring technique in computer vision [31],

scales, or accept results that appear at the coarsest scale. Our the image at the s-th scale level, I s , can be produced from the

method fuses results from different scales using a statistical convolution of a variable-scale Gaussian, G(u, v, σs ), with an

hypothesis test. input image I 0 .

1 −(u 2 +v 2 )/2σs2

III. P ROBLEM F ORMULATION G(u, v, σs ) = e . (1)

2πσs2

A. Assumption

Thus, a set of images with different scales are obtained with

We assume a crack has a lower intensity value than that different σs , which serve as the input to the following steps.

of the background image. This assumption can be accepted

in most general cases since cracks always absorb more light

than other areas and often appear as dark curves or tapes in B. Candidate Crack Extraction at Each Scale

the image. We also assume that pixels belonging to the same As shown in Fig. 2, we propose a Windowed Minimal

crack form a continuous path with an arbitrary shape. Intensity Path (WMIP) method to find candidate cracks at each

scale.

B. Notations 1) Crack Seed Extraction (Fig. 2(b)): Let g(x) be the

intensity value of pixel x, and Te be a threshold. We divide

Common notations are defined as follows,

the whole image I s into grid cells, denoted as Yis , i =

• I s , s = 0, 1, . . . , n s − 1, the digital image at the s-th

1, 2, . . . , n y . Each cell is a set of m × m pixels. In each grid

scale with I 0 denoting the original image. All images are

cell Yis , we select a pixel xis as a crack seed when the following

in grayscale.

two conditions are satisfied: 1) xis is the darkest pixel in Yis ,

• xis = [u, v]T , the i -th pixel in I s , with (u, v) being image

and 2) xis is within the top Te percent darkest pixels in I s .

coordinates.

• C s , the pixel set for the candidate cracks in I s . xis = argmin g(x),

• C ∗ , the detected crack pixel set as the algorithm output. x

s.t. x ∈ Yis , g(x) < ge , (2)

C. Problem Definition where ge is the pixel intensity value of the top Te percent

Our ultimate goal is to extract all cracks from an input pave- darkest pixels in I s .

ment image by multi-scale crack fusion, as shown in Fig. 1. As the output of the step, let us denote E s as the set of

Thus, our crack detection problem is defined as follows, crack seeds.

Definition 1 (Crack Detection): Given I 0 , generate multi- 2) Crack Seed Clustering and Filtering (see Fig. 2(c)):

scale images I s , s = 0, 1, . . . , n s − 1, extract the candidate With E s obtained, we use DBSCAN algorithm [32] to group

cracks C s from each I s , then fuse C s to obtain C ∗ . crack seeds into clusters, meanwhile, find the isolated crack

seeds that need to be removed. DBSCAN is a density-based

IV. M ULTI -S CALE PAVEMENT C RACK D ETECTION clustering algorithm, which can group together points that are

Pavement cracks in an image tend to have one or more closely packed and identify isolated outliers in low-density

particular salient scales. To combine the strengths of multiple regions. The advantages of DBSCAN include: 1) it does not

scales, we propose a three-step multi-scale crack detection require users to specify the number of clusters in the data

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all possible paths in the window set Wi,s j where Wi,s j is

the rectangular window with xis and xsj as the two opposite

vertices. The rectangle is iso-oriented and has it sides parallel

to coordinate axes.

For each pair of crack seeds xis and xsj ∈ Dis , the WMIP is

the path minimizing the sum of the intensities of pixels along

path (see Fig. 3(b)). Let Pi,s j be the WMIP, then

Pi,s j = argmin g(xas ), (5)

P∈Pi,s j xs ∈P

a

Fig. 3. WMIP generation. (a) Quadrant definition in crack seed cluster.

(b) WMIP generation. where xas represents a pixel in a candidate path P. We only

search the path within the window instead of the whole

image, because the windowed path searching can provide an

a priori; 2) it is robust to outliers; and 3) it only requires two approximate solution but reduce the computing time greatly.

parameters and is insensitive to the ordering of the points. In fact, as indicated in the tests, our windowed path searching

To find a cluster, DBSCAN starts with any crack seed, significantly reduces computing time while results remain

cis ∈ E s , and retrieves all crack seeds density-reachable similar to the algorithm performing path searching in the

from cis with regard to two parameters, ε and Mi n Pts. The whole image.

ε-neighborhood of csj is defined as, We apply Dijkstra algorithm [33] to solve the optimization

problem in (5). Finally, we obtain the set of WMIPs, denoted

Nε (cis ) = csj cis − csj ≤ ε, ∀csj ∈ E s , (3) as P s , for all (i, j ) pairs.

4) Path Verification (Fig. 2(e)): Not all WMIPs in P s

where Nε (cis ) contains at least Mi n Pts of crack seeds. In our

represent real cracks. To remove false WMIPs from P s , a ver-

experiments, we set ε = 16 and Mi n Pts = 4.

ification step is performed by calculating the mean intensity,

Denote the generated clusters as G n , n = 1, 2, . . . , n c . This

m(Pi,s j ), of each Pi,s j ∈ P s ,

clustering step can help us reduce the searching region while

finding the WMIP between crack seeds in the following step.

g(xas )

3) WMIP Generation (Fig. 2(d)): For each crack seed xis , xas ∈Pi,s j

we define Dis be the set of crack seeds which need to be m(Pi,s j ) = , (6)

|Pi,s j |

connected with xis . We first find Dis and then employ a WMIP

based method to connect xis with each crack seed in Dis . where set cardinality operator | · | counts the number of pixels.

To determine Dis , we define the local coordinate system of If the mean intensity of a WMIP is bigger than a given

xi at first, with xis as the origin and two axes parallel to the

s

threshold, gm , we consider the case as false-positive detection

two axes of I s , respectively, as shown in Fig. 3(a). For crack and discard the WMIP. Threshold gm is set as the intensity

seed xis , we connect it with another crack seed xsj if a) they value of the top Tv percent darkest pixels in I s .

are in the same cluster, b) their geometric distance is smaller 5) Crack Region Detection by Path Growing (Fig. 2(f)):

than the threshold T p , and c) xsj is the nearest crack pixel to The previous steps may miss some outside pixels due to

xis in its own quadrant, which means each crack seed can be focusing on connectivity. This step is to absorb neighboring

connected with 4 other crack seeds at most. An example is dark pixels to grow paths. The neighboring relationship is not

shown in Fig. 3(a), where xis is connected with three crack limited to adjacent pixels, two pixels with distance smaller

seeds: xsj , xas and xbs . Thus, Dis = {xsj , xas , xbs }. We do not than a threshold are considered as neighbors. Define L(xis ) :=

connect xis and xcs because their distance is bigger than T p . {xsj |g(xsj ) < g(xis )} be the set of pixels whose intensities are

For xis and each crack seed xsj ∈ Dis , we use WMIP less than g(xis ), κ be the total amount of pixels in I s , Cis be

to connect them. We consider an image as a bidirectional the i -th pixel set for the candidate crack in I s . Initially, we set

weighted graph of pixels. Pixels are vertices. If and only if Cis = Pi,s j . Denote Gis as the new found crack pixel set which

two pixels xas and xbs are adjacent in the image, we build a is generated from Cis . Gis can be computed as

bidirectional edge between them, denoted as (xas , xbs ). Recall

s |L(xa )|

s

the pixel intensity value of x is g(x). The edge weight from s s s s s

Gi := xa xa − xb < r, xb ∈ Ci , < Tr , (7)

vertex xas to xbs is g(xbs ), while edge weight from xbs to xas is κ

g(xas ). g(xas ) and g(xbs ) are often not the same value. where r is the distance tolerance for path growing, Tr is a

We denote Pi,s j as a path connecting xis and xsj in the form threshold. We set r = 4 in practice. After obtaining Gis from

of a sequence of pixels, Cis , we add Gis into Cis .

Pi,s j := {xis , xks , xk+1

s s

, . . . , xk+n , xsj }, (4) Cis = Cis ∪ Gis . (8)

such that ||xis − xks || = ||xk+n

s

− xsj || = ||xk+m

s

− xk+m+1

s

|| = 1, This aggregation process is repeatedly performed, until there

for m = 0, 1, . . . , n − 1 due to adjacency. are no further pixels to add.

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to several crack regions in the image due to noise. We want to

group the detected crack regions according to their geometric

distances between each other. The distance between two

candidate crack pixel sets, Cis and C sj , can be computed as

di, j = min xas − xbs , s.t. xas ∈ Cis , xbs ∈ C sj . (9)

For a given threshold Tg , if di, j < Tg is satisfied, this

pair of crack regions, Cis and C sj , are labeled as the same

group. All crack regions may be divided into several groups. Fig. 4. An example output of score computation (Best viewed in color).

The grouped cracks serve as the inputs of the following crack (a) Original image. (b) Score.

matching step. For brevity, we use “one crack” to represent a

crack group in the rest of this paper.

After detecting candidate cracks at each scale, we are ready of each crack pixel to be a weighted Gaussian function. The

for multi-scale fusion. score of a pixel, xas which is defined as s(xas ),

(u a −u b )2 +(v a −v b )2

1 − 2σ 2

C. Crack Correspondences Matching s(xas ) = wb × e p , (11)

2πσ p2

Now let us find the crack correspondences across different xbs ∈Ne (xas )

scales. If two cracks at different scales correspond to the same where σ p is the standard deviation of the Gaussian distri-

real crack, they are called as a pair of crack correspondence. bution, Ne (xas ) is the neighboring window with the size of

The problem of crack matching is defined as follows. (3σ p + 1) × (3σ p + 1) centering as xas , and wb is a weight.

Definition 2 (Crack Matching): Given C si and C s j , for We adopt the intensity weight in the score computation.

s s s

each Cisi ⊆ C si and C j j ⊆ C s j , find Cmsi ⊆ Cisi and Cn j ⊆ C j j , A pixel’s intensity weight is inversely proportional to its

s

such that Cmsi corresponds to Cn j . intensity value, i.e., a pixel with a lower intensity is given

si s

Then, for each Ci ⊆ C i and C j j ⊆ C s j , we find the

s

a greater intensity weight,

overlapping region with a distance tolerance as the matched

s |L(xbs )|

segments between Cisi and C j j . Let us define the distance from wb = 1 − . (12)

sj s κ

the pixel xb to crack Cisi as d(xbj , Cisi ),

Fig. 4 illustrates an example of score distribution where we

s s

d(xbj , Cisi ) = min xbj − xasi , s.t. xasi ∈ Cisi . (10) can see that the crack pixel has a larger score at this scale.

s With the score of pixel defined, we can compute the average

We want to find the overlapping region of Cisi and C j j score of crack Cis as follows,

within a distance tolerance as their correspondence. Initially,

s s s

we set Cmsi = Cn j = ∅. Then, for each pixel xbj ∈ C j j , if the s(xas )

sj si sj s xas ∈C is

criteria, d(xb , Ci ) < Td , is satisfied, we add xb into Cn j , ρ(Cis ) = . (13)

where Td is a threshold. Similarly, for each point xa ∈ Cisi , si |Cis |

s s s s s

if d(xai , C j j ) < Td is satisfied, add xai into Cmi . When Cmi and With crack’s average score defined, we perform statis-

sj si s tical hypothesis test to remove false-positive cracks. From

Cn are unchanged, we obtain the correspondence Cm and Cn j .

The steps above are applied for each pair of cracks at (11) and (13), we know that ρ(Cis ) ∼ N(μs , σs2 ) is a random

different scales until all crack correspondences are found. variable following Gaussian distribution with mean μs and

In the rest of the paper, we renumber all cracks at each variance σs2 . Hence (ρ(Cis ) − μs )/σs ∼ N(0, 1) is a random

scale so that cracks with the same subscript are a group of variable following the normal distribution with zero mean

correspondences. and unit variance. Define Ci be the union pixel set of the

i -th matched cracks across all scales, thus

s −1

n

D. Crack Selection and Verification by Multi-Scale Fusion

Ci = Cis . (14)

The key issue here is how to optimally integrate all can- s=0

didate cracks C s to obtain C ∗ . First, we design the model

of average score to evaluate the probability of each detected We define function f (Ci ) to evaluate the probability of Ci

crack being from a true crack. Then, we develop statistical to be a real crack or not.

hypothesis test to remove false-positive cracks. s −1

n

ρ(Cis ) − μs 2

We propose a metric/scoring mechanism to evaluate a f (Ci ) = ( ) . (15)

σs

pixel’s probability to be a crack pixel. A dark pixel or a pixel s=0

with many dark neighboring pixels has higher probability to For each candidate crack Ci , we set up two hypotheses:

be a crack pixel than otherwise. Thus, the score for each

pixel is defined as the aggregation between itself and from H0 : Ci is a crack.

all neighboring pixels. We model the probability distribution H1 : Ci is not a crack.

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Since f (Ci ) is the sum of squares of multiple normal Algorithm 1 WMIP Based Crack Detection

distributions according to (15), f (Ci ) follows χ 2 distribution input : I s

with n s degrees of freedom. Define F(x, n s ) be the cumulative output: C s

distribution function of χ 2 distribution with n s degrees of

1 Detect all crack seeds from I s to generate E s ; O(κ)

freedom, the probability of a value from χ 2 distribution larger

than x is 2 Cluster and filter E s using DBSCAN; O(κ log κ)

T 2 log T p

P{ f (Ci ) ≥ x} = 1 − F(x, n s ). (16) 3 foreach xis ∈ E s and xsj ∈ E s do O( p m 4 κ 2 )

4 if x j ∈ Di then

s s

By setting the significance level as α, we can obtain

5 Compute Pi,s j by solving (5) using Dijkstra

P{ f (Ci ) ≥ x} = α. (17) algorithm; O(T p2 log T p )

Since the function F is continuous and strictly monotoni- 6 Compute mean intensity m(Pi,s j ) using (6); O(T p2 )

cally increasing, combining (16) and (17), we can obtain

7 if m(Pi,s j ) < gm then

x = F −1 (1 − α, n s ), (18) 8 Discard Pi,s j ; O(1)

where F −1 (·) is the inverse function of F(·). Thus, we reject

9 foreach Pi,s j ∈ P s do O(κ log κ)

H0 if

10 repeat O(κ log κ)

f (Ci ) ≤ F −1 (1 − α, n s ). (19) 11 Compute Gis using (7); O(n i )

12 Cis = Cis ∪ Gis ; O(1)

After the statistical hypothesis test, we remove the false-

13 until Cis is unchanged;

positive cracks. Combine all the cracks remained to obtain C ∗ .

14 foreach Cis and C sj do O(|Cis ||C sj |)

V. A LGORITHM A NALYSIS 15 Compute di, j using (9); O(|Cis ||C sj |)

A. Complexity Analysis 16 if di, j < Tg then

We summarize the proposed WMIP based candidate crack 17 Merge Cis and C sj into the same group;

detection method in Algorithm 1 to facilitate our analysis. O(|Cis | + |C sj |)

Recall κ is the total amount of pixels in I s . For crack seed

18 foreach Cis ∈ C s do O(|Cis |)

extraction, since at most κ/m 2 cells are obtained, with each

19 if |Cis | < Ts then

cell containing m 2 pixels, the crack seeds can be detected in

20 Remove Cis from C s ; O(|Cis |)

O(κ/m 2 × m 2 ) = O(κ) time. Crack seed clustering takes

O(|E s | log |E s |) [32]. Obviously, |E s | ≤ κ/m 2 ≤ κ, thus, 21 return C s ; O(1)

crack seed cluster has a time complexity O(κ log κ). Since

we only find the WMIP within a rectangular window Wi,s j

whose diagonal length is smaller than T p , the maximum size

be considered as a constant. Thus, crack matching across two

of Wi,s j is 12 T p2 , thus, when proceeding the Dijkstra algorithm, s

scales has a time complexity O(|Cisi ||C j j |). Computing all

the number of vertex is smaller than 12 T p2 , and the number crack correspondences across each pair of adjacent scales takes

of edges is no more than 4T p2 . So the time complexity of s s

O(n s |Ci i ||C j j |) time. When computing the average score of

each WMIP generation is O(T p2 log T p ). There are at most any crack Cis , the scores of |Cis | pixels in Cis need to be cal-

κ 2 /m 4 paths in all because |E s | ≤ κ/m 2 . Thus, the time culated firstly, as shown in Eq. (13). The neighboring window

T 2 log T p

complexity for all WMIPs generation is p m 4 κ 2 . Since the for each pixel is (3σ p + 1) × (3σ p + 1). Thus, the overall

length of Pi,s j is no more than the size of Wi,s j , we have computation of average score of Cis takes O((3σ p + 1)2 |Cis |)

|Pi,s j | ≤ 12 T p2 . Therefore, we can compute m(Pi,s j ) in O(T p2 ) time. Since σ p is a constant, computing ρ(Cis ) has a time

time. Crack region detection by path growing takes O(κ log κ) complexity O(|Cis |). Since the total number of crack pixels

time. Computing di, j between two sets with size |Cis | and |C sj | in each I s is smaller than κ, merging cracks across n s scales

needs O(|Cis ||C sj |) time. Usually, the total number of crack takes in O(n s κ) time. Define the total number of Ci be n.

regions is very small and can be considered as constant. Thus, Considering |Ci | ≤ κ, the time complexity of hypothesis test

the time complexity of crack grouping is also O(|Cis ||C sj |). for all merged cracks is O(nκ). Thus, the crack selection and

s s

verification for each two scales takes in O(max(n i i , n j j )) time.

To summarize, since |Cis ||C sj | < κ 2 , the most computationally

expensive step in Algorithm 1 is WMIP generation using Since both |Cis | and n are much smaller than κ, the computa-

T p2 log T p 2

Dijkstra algorithm. Thus, the computational complexity of our tional complexity of our MFCD algorithm is O(n s m4

κ ).

T 2 log T p

WMIP based crack detection algorithm is O( p m 4 κ 2 ). Theorem 2: Our MFCD algorithm runs in

T p2 log T p 2

O(n s m 4 κ )

Theorem 1: The computational complexity of the proposed time.

T p2 log T p

WMIP based crack detection algorithm is O( m 4 κ 2 ).

We present our MFCD algorithm in Algorithm 2, and B. Parameter Determination

facilitate the computational complexity analysis as follows. One important characteristic of our method is that parame-

s s

Matching two cracks Cisi and C j j takes in O(|Cisi ||C j j |) time. ters or thresholds have clear statistical meanings which make

s

Generally, the total number of cracks in I is small and can them easy to be identified for different application scenarios.

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Algorithm 2 MFCD Algorithm scales exceeds 3, the detected cracks are almost unchanged.

input : I s , s = 0, 1, . . . , n s − 1 However, the cost of computation increases with this number.

output: C ∗ Therefore, we use 3 scale images. Then, by fixing k = 0, 1, 2,

T p2 log T p 2

we experimentally find σ = 0.8 to be the best choice. Thus,

1 foreach I s do O(n s m4

κ ) the 3 scale images are the original image, σs = 0.8, and

2 Extract C s using WMIP algorithm;

T p2 log T p 2

O( m 4 κ ) σs = 1.6.

s

The choice of m determines the total number of grid cells.

3 foreach C si and C s j do O(n s |Cisi ||C j j |) A smaller m leads to more seeds which increase computation

s s s s

4 foreach Ci i ⊆ C si and C j j ⊆ C s j do O(|Ci i ||C j j |) load in the subsequent steps. On the other hand, increasing

si sj si sj the value of m may miss true crack seeds. In practice,

5 Match Ci and C j ; O(|Ci ||C j |)

m significantly impacts the computation time but its effects

6 foreach C s do O(n s |Cis |) on results do not change much after reaching a sufficient

7 foreach Cis ⊆ C s do O(|Cis |) large number. Thus, we set m = 8 based on the existing

8 Compute ρ(Cis ) using (13); O(|Cis |) literature [34].

Te , Tv and Tr are statistical parameters independent of

9 Merge matched cracks using (14); O(n s κ) image size. They are all based on pixel intensity. Te allows

10 foreach Ci do O(nκ) to retain only the darkest crack seeds. Tv retains the paths

11 Compute f (Ci ) using (15); O(n s ) with the lowest mean intensities. Tr controls the merging

12 if f (Ci ) ≥ F −1 (1 − α, n s ) then of dark pixels neighboring to the currently retained paths.

13 Add Ci into C ∗ ; O(|Ci |) Naturally, we would want maintain Te < Tv < Tr due to

14 return C ∗ ; O(1) their meanings. We choose a dark (i.e. small in intensity)

Te to avoid spending much time on generating many false-

positive paths. A small value of Tv can help us to remove

false-positive paths. However, compared with Te , we prefer a

bigger Tv because there are often pixels which are not as dark

as crack seeds on a path. Meanwhile, a verified path constitutes

only the skeleton of a crack, so a bigger Tr can help to absorb

neighboring dark pixels to grow this skeleton. Thus, we choose

their values jointly as Tr = k1 Tv = K 2 Te , k2 > k1 > 1 to

guarantee Te < Tv < Tr . Tr is determined statistically as

follows: we find the first trough of the image histogram and

count the pixels whose intensities are lower than that of the

first trough, denoting this amount as n, then we determine Tr as

Tr = n/κ, where κ is the total amount of pixels in the image.

For the choice of k1 and k2 , bigger values lead to only discard

few crack seeds and minimal intensity paths which causes

Fig. 5. Pavement inspection robot developed by Guimu Robot Co. Ltd.

significant computation demand in the subsequent steps, while

smaller values increase the risk of removing real cracks. Thus,

Parameters σ p in (11) and α in (17) do not have significant we have to find a trade-off between computing time and

influence on the detection performance. σ p is only used in completeness. In practice, we have found that k1 = 2 and

score computation, and different values only lead to different k2 = 10 work well.

absolute scores of cracks, but still keep the relative differences T p , Tg and Td are self-adaptive parameters which are chosen

between cracks. α is the significance level, indicating the according to the image size. T p determines the maximum

probability of rejecting the null hypothesis when it is true. distance between two adjacent crack seeds to be connected.

A significance level of 0.05 indicates a 5% risk of conclud- If we choose a large T p , we have to spend too much time to

ing that a difference exists when in fact there is no actual generate false-positive paths using Dijkstra algorithm. It does

difference. Thus, in practice, our proposed MFCD algorithm not improve the algorithm results much because most of these

requires the tuning of eight parameters: the standard devia- paths are discarded in the following path verification step.

tion of Gaussian kernel σs for multi-scale image generation, However, if we choose a small T p , some true crack paths

the size of grid cell m, the thresholds Te , Tv , Tr , T p , Tg and Td . may be missed. Considering the concerns above, we choose a

It is important to determine the values of σs in multi- relative bigger value for T p as T p = min(n v , n v )/10, where

scale image generation in Section IV-A. We have to find a n u and n v denote the resolution of the image. Tg and Td are

trade-off between efficiency and completeness. Define σs = only used for the crack matching. A very small value may

kσ, k ∈ N. First, we fix σ = 1, and can adjust the number increases false negative rate, while a very big value may lead

of scales from 1 to 5. By setting k = 0, 1, . . . , n, we obtain to a high false positive rate. In practice, we select at least

n + 1 images with different scales. We select 10 representative 10 representative images for each dataset and we find that

images for the experiments. We find that when the number of Tg = min(n v , n v )/6 and Td = min(n v , n v )/50 work well.

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Fig. 6. Computation speed test results of our MFCD algorithm. Each data

point in this figure is an average of the results from ten pavement images.

Fig. 9. Averaged values of Precision, Recall, and F1-measure for all the

images in AigleRN. The values of GC, FFA, MPS are obtained according

to the results provided by [12]. The values of CrackIT and CrackForest are

obtained by running the source codes provided by their respective authors.

Here, WMIP indicates WMIP based crack detection method on I 0 .

Three datasets are tested in our experiments.

• AigleRN dataset [12]. This public dataset contains

38 French pavement images with ground truth. The reso-

Fig. 7. Representative sample results of crack detection using our proposed

method. The first row lists the original images, rows 2-4 are detection results lution is 991 × 462 pixels. They have been pre-processed

from scale 1-3, the last row is the final detection results. to mitigate the influence of non-uniform lighting

conditions.

• CFD dataset [20]. This public dataset is composed

VI. E XPERIMENTS of 118 images with a resolution of 480×320 pixels, which

We have implemented our algorithm using MATLAB under can generally represent urban road surface conditions

a PC with an operating system of Windows 8, which has in Beijing, China. Each image has hand labeled ground

an Intel(R) CoreTM 2 i5-4200U CPU and 4 GB memory. truth. The images contain noises such as shadows, oil

We evaluate the performance of our MFCD method on three spots, and water stains.

datasets, including two public datasets and one self-captured • APR dataset. This self-captured dataset contains

dataset, and compare it with six state-of-the-art algorithms. 33 images of an airport runway, which are captured

We set the parameters in our MFCD algorithm according to from the Shuangliu International Airport, Chengdu,

the method presented in the section of V-B. China. APR dataset can be decomposed into categories

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Fig. 10. Example results of different algorithms on AiGleRN (from left to right: original image, ground truth, CrackIT, GC, CrackForest, FFA, MPS, WMIP

based method on I 0 , and MFCD).

according to their resolutions: 19 images with a •CrackForest [20]. CrackForest is a road crack detection

resolution of 1200 × 900 pixels, and 14 images with framework based on random structured forests, by learn-

a resolution of 2048 × 2048 pixels. We capture these ing the inherent structured information of cracks.

images with a Genie Nano M1920 Mono camera fixed For FFA, an important parameter is the distance of oriented

on a pavement inspection robot developed by Guimu segments used to compute features. The authors indicate that

Robot Co. Ltd., as shown in Fig. 5. The acquisition are “The distance must be higher than granulate size to obtain

made perpendicular to the pavement, which means that an efficient filtering. If distance is high enough, there is no

the optical axis of the sensor is perpendicular to the noise detection.” In our experiments, we choose the distance

airport runway. The ground truth of cracks are labeled to be 30 when testing on AigleRN and CFD datasets. For

manually by two different experts. Since we have to other methods mentioned above, we use the parameters as

capture these images during the night when the airport is recommended by their authors.

closed, the artificial lighting is used in our system. Due To evaluate the performance of different crack detection

to the special texture, the thin width of cracks and poor algorithms quantitatively, three metrics, including Precision,

lighting conditions, this dataset is quite challenging. Recall and F1-measure, are employed. These three metrics can

The six existing methods which we compare our algorithm be computed based on true positive (TP), false negative (FN),

to are: and false positive (FP),

• GC [35]. GC is a geodesic contour method with automatic TP

selection of points of interest based on auto-correlation. Precision = (20)

TP+FP

• FFA [13]. Free Form Anisotropy (FFA) is based on the TP

estimation of minimal intensity paths at each pixel in four Recall = (21)

TP+FN

directions, and the pixel is recognized as a crack if the Precision × Recall

path cost greatly varies with the direction. F1-measure = 2 × (22)

Precision + Recall

• MPS [12]. Minimal Path Selection (MPS) is a crack

detection algorithm based on the original minimal inten- Since acquiring a high quality ground truth is difficult

sity path selection. for real images, we allow a tolerance margin in measuring

• CrackIT [15]. CrackIT is a Matlab toolbox for road crack the coincidence between the detected cracks and the ground

detection and characterization. truth. As comparisons, according to the experiment settings

• CrackTree [10]. CrackTree is an automatic pavement in [12] and [20] where AigleRN and CFD datasets are

crack detection method which adopts minimum spanning proposed, we assume that TP pixels are included within a

trees to search cracks from a crack seed graph. 2 to 5-pixel vicinity of the ground truth on AigleRN and

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CFD, respectively. These settings are the same for all tested

methods. For APR dataset, considering that the generation of

the ground truth remains a difficult task in the high resolution

images, we employ a 5-pixel tolerance distance between the

detection and the labeled ground truth for the calculation of

the TP rate.

To validate the computation complexity analysis in theo-

rem 2, we perform a speed test on our MFCD algorithm.

According to theorem 2, the computation complexity of

MFCD algorithm is related to four parameters: n s , κ, m

and T p . We test the speed of the MFCD algorithm with

different settings of the four parameters. Each time, we fix

three parameters of them and change the remaining one to

verify the trend of computation time. The results are shown

in Fig. 6, where for each setting, 10 pavement images from

CFD dataset are carried out for averaged performance. Fig. 6

shows that computation time results are consistent with the

theoretical analysis.

Fig. 7 illustrates two typical sample detections on AigleRN.

The final detection results (row 5) are obtained by fusing the

results from different scales (row 2-4). It is clear that multi-

scale fusion improves the overall performance.

The F1-measure values of the six algorithms on AigleRN

dataset are shown in Fig. 8. The summary statistics for

comparisons are presented in Fig. 9, and representative sample

results are shown in Fig. 10. It is clear that our MFCD method

outperforms the counterparts. CrackIT produces a higher FN

rate that leads to a lower recall value. GC can only find a

small part of cracks. CrackForest is sensitive to the background

texture. Note that we did not re-train the model in CrackForest

using AigleRN dataset. FFA outputs the results as a thicker

line, implying high FP rate. As for MPS, for the image with

serious noise, the values of FP and FN become an issue.

Furthermore, to validate whether the multi-scale fusion can

improve crack detection, we compare the WMIP based crack

detection result on I 0 with MFCD method. As shown in Fig. 9

and Fig. 10, it is clear that the multi-scale fusion indeed

improves the performance of single-scale detections.

D. Results on CFD Dataset Fig. 11. Some experimental results using our MFCD algorithm on CFD

dataset (from left to right: original image, ground truth, and results from

Our algorithm also achieves superior performance on CFD MFCD).

dataset. Fig. 11 presents representative images and their detec-

tion results using our MFCD algorithm, where we can see TABLE I

that the images in CFD are quite noisy. The performance of C RACK D ETECTION R ESULTS E VALUATION ON CFD D ATASET

our MFCD algorithm degrades when the contrast between

cracks and backgrounds is low (as shown in the 2nd row

in Fig. 11), or there are dark regions, e.g. oil spots, in the

pavement images (as shown in the 5th and 9th rows in Fig. 11).

The crack detection results on the CFD dataset are summarized

in Tab. I. Again, our algorithm outperforms all counterparts.

E. Results on APR Dataset Fig. 12 presents representative images and their detection

We have tested our algorithm on APR dataset, and com- results using CrackForest, CrackIT and our MFCD algorithms,

pared the results with CrackForest and CrackIT methods. where we can see that the images in APR are very challenging.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The authors would like to thank Guimu Robot Co. Ltd. for

their feedback. They are also grateful to C. Chou, H. Cheng,

S. Yeh, A. Kingery, A. Angert, T. Sun, D. Wang, Y. Sun, Y. Yu,

J. Gong, and M. Momin for their input and contributions to

the Networked Robots Laboratory at Texas A&M University.

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[32] M. Ester, H.-P. Kriegel, J. Sander, and X. Xu, “A density-based algorithm Civil Aviation University of China, Tianjin, China.

for discovering clusters in large spatial databases with noise,” in Proc. His current research interests include the

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Haifeng Li received the Ph.D. degree in control the- Binbin Li received the B.S. degree from the

ory and control engineering from Nankai University, Department of Electrical Engineering and Automa-

Tianjin, China, in 2012. tion, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China,

He is currently an Associate Professor with the in 2012. He is currently pursuing the Ph.D. degree in

Department of Computer Science and Technology, computer engineering with Texas A&M University,

Civil Aviation University of China, Tianjin, China. College Station, TX, USA.

He has authored or co-authored over 30 techni- His current research interests include the areas of

cal articles. His research interests include computer robot vision, visual tracking, and recognition.

vision, image processing, robotic sensing, multisen-

sor fusion, robot localization, and navigation.

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