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From Google Maps to a fine-grained catalog of street trees

Branson, Steve and Wegner, Jan Dirk and Hall, David and Lang, Nico and Schindler, Konrad and Perona, Pietro (2018) From Google Maps to a fine-grained catalog of street trees. ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, 135 . pp. 13-30. ISSN 0924-2716. doi:10.1016/j.isprsjprs.2017.11.008.

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Up-to-date catalogs of the urban tree population are of importance for municipalities to monitor and improve quality of life in cities. Despite much research on automation of tree mapping, mainly relying on dedicated airborne LiDAR or hyperspectral campaigns, tree detection and species recognition is still mostly done manually in practice. We present a fully automated tree detection and species recognition pipeline that can process thousands of trees within a few hours using publicly available aerial and street view images of Google Maps(TM). These data provide rich information from different viewpoints and at different scales from global tree shapes to bark textures. Our work-flow is built around a supervised classification that automatically learns the most discriminative features from thousands of trees and corresponding, publicly available tree inventory data. In addition, we introduce a change tracker that recognizes changes of individual trees at city-scale, which is essential to keep an urban tree inventory up-to-date. The system takes street-level images of the same tree location at two different times and classifies the type of change (e.g., tree has been removed). Drawing on recent advances in computer vision and machine learning, we apply convolutional neural networks (CNN) for all classification tasks. We propose the following pipeline: download all available panoramas and overhead images of an area of interest, detect trees per image and combine multi-view detections in a probabilistic framework, adding prior knowledge; recognize fine-grained species of detected trees. In a later, separate module, track trees over time, detect significant changes and classify the type of change. We believe this is the first work to exploit publicly available image data for city-scale street tree detection, species recognition and change tracking, exhaustively over several square kilometers, respectively many thousands of trees. Experiments in the city of Pasadena, California, USA show that we can detect >70% of the street trees, assign correct species to >80% for 40 different species, and correctly detect and classify changes in >90% of the cases.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription Paper
Wegner, Jan Dirk0000-0002-0290-6901
Perona, Pietro0000-0002-7583-5809
Additional Information:© 2017 International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Inc. (ISPRS). Published by Elsevier B.V. Received 13 July 2017, Revised 8 November 2017, Accepted 8 November 2017, Available online 20 November 2017.
Subject Keywords:Deep learning; Image interpretation; Urban areas; Street trees; Very high resolution
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180215-151628283
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Steve Branson, Jan Dirk Wegner, David Hall, Nico Lang, Konrad Schindler, Pietro Perona. From Google Maps to a fine-grained catalog of street trees, ISPRS Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, Volume 135, 2018, Pages 13-30, ISSN 0924-2716, (
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:84854
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:22 Feb 2018 03:34
Last Modified:15 Nov 2021 20:23

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