Atanas Z. Atanasov, Boris I. Evstatiev, Valentin N. Vladut, Sorin-Stefan Biris

A Novel Algorithm to Detect White Flowering Honey Trees in Mixed Forest Ecosystems Using UAV-Based RGB Imaging

  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Horticulture
  • Food Science
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

Determining the productive potential of flowering vegetation is crucial in obtaining bee products. The application of a remote sensing approach of terrestrial objects can provide accurate information for the preparation of maps of the potential bee pasture in a given region. The study is aimed at the creation of a novel algorithm to identify and distinguish white flowering honey plants, such as black locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia) and to determine the areas occupied by this forest species in mixed forest ecosystems using UAV-based RGB imaging. In our study, to determine the plant cover of black locust in mixed forest ecosystems we used a DJI (Da-Jiang Innovations, Shenzhen, China) Phantom 4 Multispectral drone with 6 multispectral cameras with 1600 × 1300 image resolution. The monitoring was conducted in the May 2023 growing season in the village of Yuper, Northeast Bulgaria. The geographical location of the experimental region is 43°32′4.02″ N and 25°45′14.10″ E at an altitude of 223 m. The UAV was used to make RGB and multispectral images of the investigated forest massifs, which were thereafter analyzed with the software product QGIS 3.0. The spectral images of the observed plants were evaluated using the newly created criteria for distinguishing white from non-white colors. The results obtained for the scanned area showed that approximately 14–15% of the area is categorized as white-flowered trees, and the remaining 86–85%—as non-white-flowered. The comparison of the developed algorithm with the Enhanced Bloom Index (EBI) approach and with supervised Support Vector Machine (SVM) classification showed that the suggested criterion is easy to understand for users with little technical experience, very accurate in identifying white blooming trees, and reduces the number of false positives and false negatives. The proposed approach of detecting and mapping the areas occupied by white flowering honey plants, such as black locust (Robinia pseudo-acacia) in mixed forest ecosystems is of great importance for beekeepers in determining the productive potential of the region and choosing a place for an apiary.

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