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Open Access Northern Conifer Forest Species Classification Using Multispectral Data Acquired from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Object-based image analysis and machine learning classification procedures, after field calibration and photogrammetric processing of consumer-grade unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) digital camera data, were implemented to classify tree species in a conifer forest in the Great Lakes/St Lawrence Lowlands Ecoregion, Ontario, Canada. A red-green-blue (RGB) digital camera yielded approximately 72 percent classification accuracy for three commercial tree species and one conifer shrub. Accuracy improved approximately 15 percent, to 87 percent overall, with higher radiometric quality data acquired separately using a digital camera that included near infrared observations (at a lower spatial resolution). Interpretation of the point cloud, spectral, texture and object (tree crown) classification Variable Importance (VI) selected by a machine learning algorithm suggested a good correspondence with the traditional aerial photointerpretation cues used in the development of well-established large-scale photography northern conifer elimination keys, which use three-dimensional crown shape, spectral response (tone), texture derivatives to quantify branching characteristics, and crown size, development and outline features. These results suggest that commonly available consumer-grade UAV-based digital cameras can be used with object-based image analysis to obtain acceptable conifer species classification accuracy to support operational forest inventory applications.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2017

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  • The official journal of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing - the Imaging and Geospatial Information Society (ASPRS). This highly respected publication covers all facets of photogrammetry and remote sensing methods and technologies.

    Founded in 1934, the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS) is a scientific association serving over 7,000 professional members around the world. Our mission is to advance knowledge and improve understanding of mapping sciences to promote the responsible applications of photogrammetry, remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), and supporting technologies.
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