An investigation of preprocessing filters and deep learning methods for vessel type classification with underwater acoustic data

Lucas C.F. Domingos, Paulo E. Santos, Phillip S.M. Skelton, Russell S.A. Brinkworth, Karl Sammut

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


The illegal exploitation of protected marine environments has consistently threatened the biodiversity and economic development of coastal regions. Extensive monitoring in these- often remote- areas is challenging. Machine learning methods are useful in object detection and classification tasks and have the potential to underpin techniques for the development of robust monitoring systems to overcome this problem. However, development is hindered due to the limited number of publicly available labelled and curated datasets. Furthermore, there are relatively few open-source state-of-the-art methods to be used for evaluation. This paper presents an investigation of automated classification methods using underwater acoustic signals to infer the presence and type of vessels navigating in coastal regions. Various combinations of deep convolutional neural network architectures, and preprocessing filter layers, were evaluated using a new dataset based on a subset of the extensive open-source Ocean Networks Canada hydrophone data. Tests were conducted in which VGGNet and ResNet networks were applied to classify the input data. The data was preprocessed using either Constant Q Transform (CQT), Gammatone, Mel spectrogram, or a combination of these filters. With over 97% accuracy, using all three preprocessing representations simultaneously yielded the most reliable result. However, high accuracies of 94.95% were achieved using CQT as the preprocessing filter for a ResNet-based convolutional neural network, providing a trade-off between model complexity and accuracy; a result that is more than 10% higher than previously reported approaches. This more accurate classifier for underwater acoustics could be used as a reliable autonomous monitoring system in maritime environments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117582-117596
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Access
Publication statusPublished - 7 Nov 2022


  • Acoustics
  • Deep learning
  • deep learning
  • hydrophones
  • marine environment
  • Marine equipment
  • ship type
  • Sonar equipment
  • sound
  • Spectrogram
  • Surveillance
  • Time-frequency analysis
  • Underwater acoustics


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