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Interpretability in Convolutional Neural Networks for Building Damage Classification in Satellite Imagery
  • Thomas Y. Chen
Thomas Y. Chen
Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering, Academy for Mathematics

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Natural disasters ravage the world's cities, valleys, and shores on a monthly basis. Having precise and efficient mechanisms for assessing infrastructure damage is essential to channel resources and minimize the loss of life. Using a dataset that includes labeled pre- and post- disaster satellite imagery, the xBD dataset, we train multiple convolutional neural networks to assess building damage on a per-building basis. In order to investigate how to best classify building damage, we present a highly interpretable deep-learning methodology that seeks to explicitly convey the most useful information required to train an accurate classification model. We also delve into which loss functions best optimize these models. Our findings include that ordinal-cross entropy loss is the most optimal loss function to use and that including the type of disaster that caused the damage in combination with a pre- and post-disaster image best predicts the level of damage caused. We also make progress in the realm of qualitative representations of which parts of the images that the model is using to predict damage levels, through gradient class-activation maps. Our research seeks to computationally contribute to aiding in this ongoing and growing humanitarian crisis, heightened by climate change. Specifically, it advances the study of more interpretable machine learning models, which were lacking in previous literature and are important for the understanding of not only research scientists but also operators of such technologies in underserved regions.