Techniques for Processing Airborne Imagery for Multimodal Crop Health Monitoring and Early Insect Detection

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Virginia Tech

During their growth, crops may experience a variety of health issues, which often lead to a reduction in crop yield. In order to avoid financial loss and sustain crop survival, it is imperative for farmers to detect and treat crop health issues. Interest in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for precision agriculture has continued to grow as the cost of these platforms and sensing payloads has decreased. The increase in availability of this technology may enable farmers to scout their fields and react to issues more quickly and inexpensively than current satellite and other airborne methods. In the work of this thesis, methods have been developed for applications of UAV remote sensing using visible spectrum and multispectral imagery. An algorithm has been developed to work on a server for the remote processing of images acquired of a crop field with a UAV. This algorithm first enhances the images to adjust the contrast and then classifies areas of the image based upon the vigor and greenness of the crop. The classification is performed using a support vector machine with a Gaussian kernel, which achieved a classification accuracy of 86.4%. Additionally, an analysis of multispectral imagery was performed to determine indices which correlate with the health of corn crops. Through this process, a method for correcting hyperspectral images for lighting issues was developed. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index values did not show a significant correlation with the health, but several indices were created from the hyperspectral data. Optimal correlation was achieved by using the reflectance values for 740 nm and 760 nm wavelengths, which produced a correlation coefficient of 0.84 with the yield of corn. In addition to this, two algorithms were created to detect stink bugs on crops with aerial visible spectrum images. The first method used a superpixel segmentation approach and achieved a recognition rate of 93.9%, although the processing time was high. The second method used an approach based upon texture and color and achieved a recognition rate of 95.2% while improving upon the processing speed of the first method. While both methods achieved similar accuracy, the superpixel approach allows for detection from higher altitudes, but this comes at the cost of extra processing time.

Drone aircraft, Crop Monitoring, Remote Sensing, Hyperspectral