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Title: Effects of Neural Network Architecture on Topography Estimation From Satellite Imagery for Multi-Terrain Autonomous Vehicle Path Planning and Control
Global warming is one of the world’s most pressing issues. The study of its effects on the polar ice caps and other arctic environments, however, can be hindered by the often dangerous and difficult to navigate terrain found there. Multi-terrain autonomous vehicles can assist researchers by providing a mobile platform on which to collect data in these harsh environments while avoiding any risk to human life and speeding up the research process. The mechanical design and ultimate efficacy of these autonomous robotic vehicles depends largely on the specific missions they are deployed for, but terrain conditions can vary wildly geographically as well as seasonally, making mission planning for these unmanned vehicles more difficult. This paper proposes the use of various UNet-based neural network architectures to generate digital elevation maps from satellite images, and explores and compares their efficacy on a single set of training and validation datasets generated from satellite imagery. These digital elevation maps generated by the model could be used by researchers not only to track the change in arctic topography over time, but to quickly provide autonomous exploratory research rovers with the topographical information necessary to decide on optimal paths during the mission. This paper analyzes different model architectures and training schemes: a traditional UNet, a traditional UNet with data augmentation, a UNet with a single active skip-layer vision transformer (ViT), and a UNet with multiple active skip-layer ViT. Each model was trained on a dataset of satellite images and corresponding digital elevation maps of Ellesmere Island, Canada. Utilizing ViTs did not demonstrate a significant improvement in UNet performance, though this could change with longer training. This paper proposes opportunities to improve performance for these neural networks, as well as next steps for further research, including improving the diversity of images in the dataset, generating a testing dataset from a completely different geographic location, and allowing the models more time to train.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2116216
NSF-PAR ID:
10451173
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
2023 IEEE International Conference on Mobility, Operations, Services and Technologies (MOST)
Page Range / eLocation ID:
124 to 131
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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