Computer vision systems have attracted much attention in recent years for use in detecting surface defects on rails; however, accurate and efficient recognition of possible defects remains challenging due to the variations shown by defects and also noise. This paper proposes a coarse-to-fine model (CTFM) to identify defects at different scales. The model works on three scales from coarse to fine: subimage level, region level, and pixel level. At the subimage level, the background subtraction model exploits row consistency in the longitudinal direction, and strongly filters the defect-free range, leaving roughly identified subimages within which defects may exist. At the next level, the region extraction model, inspired by visual saliency models, locates definite defect regions using phase-only Fourier transforms. At the finest level, the pixel subtraction model uses pixel consistency to refine the shape of each defect. The proposed method is evaluated using Type-I and Type-II rail surface defect detection data sets and an actual rail line. The experimental results show that CTFM outperforms state-of-the-art methods according to both the pixel-level index and the defect-level index.
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