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Counting Elephants From Space

Satellite images processed with the help of computer algorithms are a promising new tool for surveying endangered wildlife.

For the first time, scientists have successfully used satellite cameras coupled with deep learning to count animals in complex geographical landscapes, taking conservationists an important step forward in monitoring populations of endangered species.

For this research, the satellites Worldview 3 and 4 used high-resolution imagery to capture African elephants moving through forests and grasslands. The automated system detected animals with the same accuracy as humans are able to achieve.

The algorithm that enabled the detection process was created by Dr. Olga Isupova, a computer scientist at the University of Bath. The project was a collaboration with the University of Oxford and the University of Twente in the Netherlands.



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