GRI Publications and Scholarship

Automated Hyperspectral Feature Selection and Classification of Wildlife Using Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles


Daniel McCraine:

Sathishkumar Samiappan:

David Will:


Timely and accurate detection and estimation of animal abundance is an important part of wildlife management. This is particularly true for invasive species where cost-effective tools are needed to enable landscape-scale surveillance and management responses, especially when targeting low-density populations residing in dense vegetation and under canopies. This research focused on investigating the feasibility and practicality of using uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) and hyperspectral imagery (HSI) to classify animals in the wild on a spectral—rather than spatial—basis, in the hopes of developing methods to accurately classify animal targets even when their form may be significantly obscured. We collected HSI of four species of large mammals reported as invasive species on islands: cow (Bos taurus), horse (Equus caballus), deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and goat (Capra hircus) from a small UAS. Our objectives of this study were to (a) create a hyperspectral library of the four mammal species, (b) study the efficacy of HSI for animal classification by only using the spectral information via statistical separation, (c) study the efficacy of sequential and deep learning neural networks to classify the HSI pixels, (d) simulate five-band multispectral data from HSI and study its effectiveness for automated supervised classification, and (e) assess the ability of using HSI for invasive wildlife detection. Image classification models using sequential neural networks and one-dimensional convolutional neural networks were developed and tested. The results showed that the information from HSI derived using dimensionality reduction techniques were sufficient to classify the four species with class F1 scores all above 0.85. The performances of some classifiers were capable of reaching an overall accuracy over 98%and class F1 scores above 0.75, thus using only spectra to classify animals to species from existing sensors is feasible. This study discovered various challenges associated with the use of HSI for animal detection, particularly intra-class and seasonal variations in spectral reflectance and the practicalities of collecting and analyzing HSI data over large meaningful areas within an operational context. To make the use of spectral data a practical tool for wildlife and invasive animal management, further research into spectral profiles under a variety of real-world conditions, optimization of sensor spectra selection, and the development of on-board real-time analytics are needed.



Publication Date


Research Center

Geosystems Research Institute


Invasive Species; Hyperspectral Imaging; Animal Classification

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