Weed Mapping with UAS Imagery and a Bag of Visual Words Based Image Classifier
Weed detection with aerial images is a great challenge to generate field maps for site-specific plant protection application. The requirements might be met with low altitude flights of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), to provide adequate ground resolutions for differentiating even single weeds accurately. The following study proposed and tested an image classifier based on a Bag of Visual Words (BoVW) framework for mapping weed species, using a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) with a commercial camera on board, at low flying altitudes. The image classifier was trained with support vector machines after building a visual dictionary of local features from many collected UAS images. A window-based processing of the models was used for mapping the weed occurrences in the UAS imagery. The UAS flight campaign was carried out over a weed infested wheat field, and images were acquired between a 1 and 6 m flight altitude. From the UAS images, 25,452 weed plants were annotated on species level, along with wheat and soil as background classes for training and validation of the models. The results showed that the BoVW model allowed the discrimination of single plants with high accuracy for Matricaria recutita L. (88.60%), Papaver rhoeas L. (89.08%), Viola arvensis M. (87.93%), and winter wheat (94.09%), within the generated maps. Regarding site specific weed control, the classified UAS images would enable the selection of the right herbicide based on the distribution of the predicted weed species.