A few photons among many: unmixing signal and noise for photon-efficient active imaging
Goyal, Vivek K.
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Citation (published version)Joshua Rapp, Vivek K Goyal. 2017. "A Few Photons Among Many: Unmixing Signal and Noise for Photon-Efficient Active Imaging." IEEE Transactions on Computational Imaging, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp. 445 - 459.
Conventional LIDAR systems require hundreds or thousands of photon detections per pixel to form accurate depth and reflectivity images. Recent photon-efficient computational imaging methods are remarkably effective with only 1.0 to 3.0 detected photons per pixel, but they are not demonstrated at signal-to-background ratio (SBR) below 1.0 because their imaging accuracies degrade significantly in the presence of high background noise. We introduce a new approach to depth and reflectivity estimation that emphasizes the unmixing of contributions from signal and noise sources. At each pixel in an image, short-duration range gates are adaptively determined and applied to remove detections likely to be due to noise. For pixels with too few detections to perform this censoring accurately, data are combined from neighboring pixels to improve depth estimates, where the neighborhood formation is also adaptive to scene content. Algorithm performance is demonstrated on experimental data at varying levels of noise. Results show improved performance of both reflectivity and depth estimates over state-of-the-art methods, especially at low SBR. In particular, accurate imaging is demonstrated with SBR as low as 0.04. This validation of a photon-efficient, noise-tolerant method demonstrates the viability of rapid, long-range, and low-power LIDAR imaging.