Automated School Location Mapping at Scale from Satellite Imagery Based on Deep Learning

Computer vision for large scale building detection can be very challenging in many environments and settings even with recent advances in deep learning technologies. Even more challenging is modeling to detect the presence of specific buildings (in this case schools) in satellite imagery at a global scale. However, despite the variation in school building structures from rural to urban areas and from country to country, many school buildings have identifiable overhead signatures that make them possible to be detected from high-resolution imagery with modern deep learning techniques. Our hypothesis is that a Deep Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) could be trained for successful mapping of school locations at a regional or global scale from high-resolution satellite imagery. One of the key objectives of this work is to explore the possibility of having a scalable model that can be used to map schools across the globe. In this work, we developed AI-assisted rapid school location mapping models in eight countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. The results show that regional models outperform country-specific models and the global model. This indicates that the regional model took the advantage of having been exposed to diverse school location structure and features and generalized better, however, the global model was the worst performer due to the difficulty of generalizing the significant variability of school location features across different countries from different regions.