Utility of Machine Learning Algorithms for Natural Background Photo Classification
ERDC HANOVER United States
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In support of the Terrain Characterization for Rendering and Field Evaluation effort, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Engineer Research and Development Center ERDC, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory CRREL, assisted the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center NSRDEC in evaluating machine learning algorithms to automatically classify three vegetation types tree, shrub, and herbaceous, and a non-vegetated type in terrestrial images. In a previous partnership between CRREL and NSRDEC, researchers developed the Global Natural Background Image Database GNBID, a collection of natural background images classified by vegetation attributes to include vegetation type and height, leaf shape, leaf color, and many others. Following deployment, the GNBID successfully improved on-the-ground understanding of natural background environments and quickly revealed the need for a larger database. Manual classification methods proved time intensive and variable, thus CRREL explored the feasibility of automatically identifying features using machine learning algorithms. In this scope-of-work study, we explore a multitude of computer vision techniques, settling on a supervised deep-learning technique. Here we present the advantages and disadvantages of various techniques, classification results from a subset of images, and recommendations for future research in this area.