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Perform image classification

Image classification is a powerful type of image analysis that uses machine learning to identify patterns and differences in land cover in drone, aerial, or satellite imagery. Land cover classification maps can be used to monitor deforestation in vulnerable regions; identify the amount of impervious surfaces on different land parcels for tax and property assessments; create flood maps; aid in watershed monitoring and city planning; and more.

ArcGIS Pro offers a powerful array of tools and options for image classification to help users produce the best results for your specific application.

There are four different classifiers available in ArcGIS: random trees, support vector machine (SVM), ISO cluster, and maximum likelihood. Both supervised and unsupervised classification workflows are supported. In supervised classification, the user identifies classes, then provides training samples of each class for the machine learning algorithm to use when classifying the image. This approach works well when the user has a good understanding of what classes are present in their region of interest or is looking for the presence of specific classes. Unsupervised classification does not require training samples or a given set of classes. Rather, the classifier analyzes the dataset and identifies different statistically significant classes that best fit the dataset. These classes are reported as generic classes and must be assigned to specific categories (such as vegetation or roads) by the user after the classification is complete.

Classification methods also includes pixel-based options, where each individual pixel is assigned a class based solely on the characteristics of that specific pixel, or object-based options, which group neighboring pixels with similar characteristics into segments and classifies the resulting segments rather than individual pixels. There are also tools for assessing accuracy by comparing the classified image to a reference image.

For less experienced users, image classification can be time consuming, complicated, and difficult to produce accurate results. The Image Classification wizard in ArcGIS Pro provides a simplified user experience comprised of best practices to guide beginning (and experienced) users through the classification process.

Explore the following resources to learn more about performing image classification in ArcGIS. (Not sure where to start? Look for the star by Esri's most helpful resources.)

To use image classification tools or the classification wizard, you'll need ArcGIS Pro with either ArcGIS Image Analyst or ArcGIS Spatial Analyst.

ArcGIS help

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