Prototype image processing system could provide early warnings for HAB events

Posted October 28, 2016

SCCWRP has partnered with Ohio’s NASA Glenn Research Center and Wright State University to build a prototype computer system that can autonomously analyze aerial photos of water bodies susceptible to harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The system will allow airplane pilots who volunteer as citizen scientists to upload photos they capture during flight to an online database. Then, image analysis software will automatically process and analyze the photos, looking for unexpected or unusual features that could be indicative of a HAB event.

General aviation pilots already help monitor potential HAB events by snapping aerial photos of water bodies, but these citizen science programs are limited because the images that pilots collect must be manually reviewed by trained personnel.

HAB events occur when colonies of aquatic algae suddenly proliferate, releasing toxins that are harmful to humans and wildlife and triggering other adverse ecological impacts.

This summer, SCCWRP began working with the NASA Glenn Research Center and Wright State University in Ohio on a prototype MatLab image processing tool that uses quantum classification of spectral data to identify HABs-like features in aerial photos.

In the coming months, the system will undergo rigorous testing and refinement with a wide variety of aerial photos, including those captured by unmanned autonomous systems.

More news related to: Eutrophication, Harmful Algal Blooms