Fast image-based obstacle detection from unmanned surface vehicles

IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics, 2015
Obstacle detection plays an important role in unmanned surface vehicles (USV). The USVs operate in highly diverse environments in which an obstacle may be a floating piece of wood, a scuba diver, a pier, or a part of a shoreline, which presents a significant challenge to continuous detection from images taken onboard. This paper addresses the problem of online detection by constrained unsupervised segmentation. To this end, a new graphical model is proposed that affords a fast and continuous obstacle image-map estimation from a single video stream captured onboard a USV. The model accounts for the semantic structure of marine environment as observed from USV by imposing weak structural constraints. A Markov random field framework is adopted and a highly efficient algorithm for simultaneous optimization of model parameters and segmentation mask estimation is derived. Our approach does not require computationally intensive extraction of texture features and comfortably runs in real-time. The algorithm is tested on a new, challenging, dataset for segmentation and obstacle detection in marine environments, which is the largest annotated dataset of its kind. Results on this dataset show that our model outperforms the related approaches, while requiring a fraction of computational effort.

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