Machine Learning for Wildlife Conservation with UAVs

Lily Xu, Andrew Perrault, Andrew Plumptre, Margaret Driciru, Fred Wanyama, Aggrey Rwetsiba, and Milind Tambe. 7/20/2020. “Game Theory on the Ground: The Effect of Increased Patrols on Deterring Poachers.” Harvard CRCS Workshop on AI for Social Good. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Applications of artificial intelligence for wildlife protection have focused on learning models of poacher behavior based on historical patterns. However, poachers' behaviors are described not only by their historical preferences, but also their reaction to ranger patrols. Past work applying machine learning and game theory to combat poaching have hypothesized that ranger patrols deter poachers, but have been unable to find evidence to identify how or even if deterrence occurs. Here for the first time, we demonstrate a measurable deterrence effect on real-world poaching data. We show that increased patrols in one region deter poaching in the next timestep, but poachers then move to neighboring regions. Our findings offer guidance on how adversaries should be modeled in realistic game-theoretic settings.
Elizabeth Bondi, Raghav Jain, Palash Aggrawal, Saket Anand, Robert Hannaford, Ashish Kapoor, Jim Piavis, Shital Shah, Lucas Joppa, Bistra Dilkina, and Milind Tambe. 2020. “BIRDSAI: A Dataset for Detection and Tracking in Aerial Thermal Infrared Videos.” In WACV. 2020_07_teamcore_wacv_birdsai.pdf
Elizabeth Bondi, Hoon Oh, Haifeng Xu, Fei Fang, Bistra Dilkina, and Milind Tambe. 2020. “To Signal or Not To Signal: Exploiting Uncertain Real-Time Information in Signaling Games for Security and Sustainability.” In AAAI conference on Artificial Intelligence. 2020_02_teamcore_aaai_signaluncertainty.pdf
Elizabeth Bondi, Debadeepta Dey, Ashish Kapoor, Jim Piavis, Shital Shah, Fei Fang, Bistra Dilkina, Robert Hannaford, Arvind Iyer, Lucas Joppa, and Milind Tambe. 6/20/2018. “AirSim-W: A Simulation Environment for Wildlife Conservation with UAVs.” In In COMPASS ’18: ACM SIGCAS Conference on Computing and Sustainable Societies (COMPASS), June 20–22, 2018, . Menlo Park and San Jose, CA, USA. ACM, New York, NY, USA.Abstract
Increases in poaching levels have led to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to count animals, locate animals in parks, and even find poachers. Finding poachers is often done at night through the use of long wave thermal infrared cameras mounted on these UAVs. Unfortunately, monitoring the live video stream from the conservation UAVs all night is an arduous task. In order to assist in this monitoring task, new techniques in computer vision have been developed. This work is based on a dataset which took approximately six months to label. However, further improvement in detection and future testing of autonomous flight require not only more labeled training data, but also an environment where algorithms can be safely tested. In order to meet both goals efficiently, we present AirSim-W, a simulation environment that has been designed specifically for the domain of wildlife conservation. This includes (i) creation of an African savanna environment in Unreal Engine, (ii) integration of a new thermal infrared model based on radiometry, (iii) API code expansions to follow objects of interest or fly in zig-zag patterns to generate simulated training data, and (iv) demonstrated detection improvement using simulated data generated by AirSim-W. With these additional simulation features, AirSim-W will be directly useful for wildlife conservation research.