Journal of Geo-information Science ›› 2023, Vol. 25 ›› Issue (5): 1050-1063.doi: 10.12082/dqxxkx.2023.220781

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Class-centric Knowledge Distillation for RSI Scene Classification

LIU Xiao(), LIU Zhi(), LIN Yuzhun, WANG Shuxiang, ZUO Xibing   

  1. Institute of Geospatial Information, Information Engineering University, Zhengzhou 450001, China
  • Received:2022-10-12 Revised:2023-01-28 Online:2023-05-25 Published:2023-04-27
  • Contact: LIU Zhi;


Convolutional neural networks have been widely used in the task of Remote Sensing Image Scene Classification (RSISC) and have achieved extraordinary performance. However, these excellent models have large volume and high computational cost, which cannot be deployed to resource-constrained edge devices. Moreover, in the RSISC task, the existing knowledge distillation method is directly applied to the compression model, ignoring the intra-class diversity and inter-class similarity of scene data. To this end, we propose a novel class-centric knowledge distillation method, which aims to obtain a compact, efficient, and accurate network model for RSISC. The proposed class-centric knowledge distillation framework for remote sensing image scene classification consists of two streams, teacher network flow and student network flow. Firstly, the remote sensing image scene classification dataset is sent into the teacher network pre-trained on a large-scale dataset to fine-tune the parameters. Then, the class-centric knowledge of the hidden layer is extracted from the adjusted teacher network and transferred to the student network based on the designed class center distillation loss, which is realized by constraining the distance of the distribution center of similar features extracted by the teacher and student network, so that the student network can learn the powerful feature extraction ability of the teacher network. The distillation process is combined with the truth tag supervision. Finally, the trained student network is used for scene prediction from remote sensing images alone. To evaluate the proposed method, we design a comparison experiment with eight advanced distillation methods on classical remote sensing image scene classification with different training ratios and different teacher-student architectures. Our results show that: compared to the best performance of other distillation methods, in the case of the teacher-student network belonging to the same series, the overall classification accuracy of our proposed method is increased by 1.429% and 2.74%, respectively, with a given training ratio of 80% and 60%; and in the case of teacher-student networks belonging to different series, the classification accuracy is increased by 0.238% and 0.476%, respectively, with the two given ratios. Additionally, supplementary experiments are also carried out on a small data set of RSC11 with few classes and few samples, a multi-scale data set of RSSCN7 with few classes and multiple books, and a large complex data set of AID with many classes of heterogeneous samples. The results show that the proposed method has good generalization ability. Trough the comparison experiments with similar techniques, it is found that the proposed method can maintain excellent performance in challenging categories through confusion matrix, and the proposed distillation loss function can better deal with noise through testing error curve. And visualization analysis also shows that the proposed method can effectively deal with the problems of intra-class diversity and inter-class similarity in remote sensing image scenes.

Key words: scene classification, model compression, knowledge distillation, class center, Reproducing Kernel Hilbert Space, remote sensing, deep learning, convolutional neural network