Delplanque A., Foucher S., Lejeune P., Linchant J., Théau J. [2021] Multispecies detection and identification of African mammals in aerial imagery using convolutional neural networks. Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation, 14p. doi :

Abstract : Survey and monitoring of wildlife populations are among the key elements in nature conservation. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles and light aircrafts as aerial image acquisition systems is growing, as they are cheaper alternatives to traditional census methods. However, the manual localization and identification of species within imagery can be time-consuming and complex. Object detection algorithms, based on convolutional neural networks (CNNs), have shown a good capacity for animal detection. Nevertheless, most of the work has focused on binary detection cases (animal vs. background). The main objective of this study is to compare three recent detection algorithms to detect and identify African mammal species based on high-resolution aerial images. We evaluated the performance of three multi-class CNN algorithms: Faster-RCNN, Libra-RCNN and RetinaNet. Six species were targeted: topis (Damaliscus lunatus jimela), buffalos (Syncerus caffer), elephants (Loxodonta africana), kobs (Kobus kob), warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) and waterbucks (Kobus ellipsiprymnus). The best model was then applied to a case study using an independent dataset. The best model was the Libra-RCNN, with the best mean average precision (0.80 0.02), the lowest degree of interspecies confusion (3.5 1.4%) and the lowest false positive per true positive ratio (1.7 0.2) on the test set. This model was able to detect and correctly identify 73% of all individuals (1115), find 43 individuals of species other than those targeted and detect 84 missed individuals on our independent UAV dataset, with an average processing speed of 12 s/image. This model showed better detection performance than previous studies dealing with similar habitats. It was able to differentiate six animal species in nadir aerial images. Although limitations were observed with warthog identification and individual detection in herds, this model can save time and can perform precise surveys in open savanna.

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