Learning Geometric Features for Improving the Automatic Detection of Citrus Plantation Rows in UAV Images

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Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) allow on-demand imaging of orchards at an unprecedented level of detail. The automated detection of plantation rows in the images helps in the successive analysis steps, such as the detection of individual fruit trees and planting gaps, aiding producers with inventory and planting operations. Citrus trees can be planted in curved rows that form intricate geometric patterns in aerial images, requiring robust detection approaches. While deep learning methods rank among state-of-the-art methods for segmenting images with particular geometrical patterns, they struggle to hold their performance when testing data differs much from training data (e.g., image intensity differences, image artifacts, vegetation characteristics, and landscape conditions). In this letter, we propose a method to learn geometric features of orchards in UAV images and use them to improve the detection of plantation rows. First, we train a detection encoder-decoder network (DetED) to segment planting rows in RGB images. Then, with labeled data, we train an encoder-decoder correction network (CorrED) that learns to map binary masks with spurious row segmentation geometries into corrected ones. Finally, we use the CorrED network to fix geometric inconsistencies in DetED outcome. Our experiments with commercial plantations of orange trees show that the proposed CorrED postprocessing can restore missing segments of plantation rows and improve detection accuracy in testing data.