Assumptive and uncertain factors, few leak samples, complex non-linear pipeline systems are the problems often involved in the process of pipeline leak detection. Furthermore, the pressure wave changes of leakage are similar to these of valve regulation and pump closure. Thus it is difficult to establish a reliable model and to distinguish the leak signal pattern from others in pipeline leak detection. The veracity of leak detection system is limited. This paper presents a novel technique based on the statistical learning theory, support vector machine (SVM) for pipeline leak detection. Support Vector Machine (SVM) is learning system that uses a hypothesis space of linear functions in a high dimensional feature space, trained with a learning algorithm from optimization theory that implements a learning bias derived from statistical learning theory. SVM is based on the principle of structure risk minimization as opposed to the principle of empirical risk minimization in conventional techniques. Thus, SVM has good performance for classification over small sample set. In this paper, an overview of the limitations of traditional statistics and the advantage of statistical learning theory will be introduced. In this paper, an SVM classifier is used to classify the signal pattern with few samples. Firstly, the algorithm of the SVM classifier and steps of using the model to identify leakage signals are studied. Secondly, the classification results of the experiment show that SVM classifier has high recognition accuracy. In addition, SVM is compared with neural network method. Then the paper concludes that in terms of classification ability and generalization performance, SVM has clearly advantages than neural network method over small sample set, so SVM is more applicable to pipeline leak detection.

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