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Identifying Gull Escape Reactions Using Multiple Object Tracking (MOT) with sUAS Videos

Overview

Ring-billed gulls (Larus Delawareans) and Herring gulls (Larus Argentatus) are ranked as some of the riskiest wildlife species for civil and military aviation. The August 2019 Ural Airlines Airbus 321 passenger flight from Moscow, Russia that crash landed in a cornfield due to a collision with a gull flock shortly after takeoff highlights the need for gull management techniques to improve aviation safety. Fortunately, all 226 passengers and crew survived the crash; however, the risk of gull flock collisions still exist. Finding ways to safely disperse gull flocks near airports is an important step in reducing these risks.

This goal of this study is to develop computational tools to study the escape responses of both Ring-billed and Herring gulls when being approached by three types of sUAS platforms (remote-controlled, quadcopter, and an ornithopter). Previous studies on the escape responses of birds such as Turkey Vultures (Cathartes Aura) who typically travel in small numbers (usually 1-6) have utilized unautomated video to collect data of flock flight-initiation distance and reaction time. Because gulls travel in much larger numbers (often hundreds), computer visualization techniques will be used to identify and track individual gull escape reactions. Multiple object tracking (MOT) will allow for automated collection of flight-initiation distance, reaction time, takeoff speed, and angle of escape for each of the gulls in the video.

Project Personnel

Dr. Ray Iglay, Principal Investigator
Assistant Professor
College of Forest Resources
Mississippi State University
Dr. Sathish Samiappan, Co-Investigator
Assistant Research Professor
Geosystems Research Institute
Mississippi State University
Dr. Joseph Crumpton
Postdoctoral Associate
Geosystems Research Institute
Mississippi State University

Project Collaborators

USDA National Wildlife Research Center - The National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) is the research unit of the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services program. Scientists and support staff are dedicated to finding solutions to challenging wildlife damage management problems related to agriculture, natural resources, property, and human health and safety. Human-wildlife conflicts, wildlife damage, nuisance and pest animals, wildlife disease, invasive species, overabundant wildlife, and overall ecosystem health are just some of the topics studied by researchers at the National Wildlife Research Center.
Dr. Bradley Blackwell
Research Wildlife Biologist
National Wildlife Research Center
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Dr. Morgan B. Drabik-Hamshare (Pfeiffer)
Research Wildlife Biologist
National Wildlife Research Center
U.S. Department of Agriculture

Funding

This is was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Period of Performance

July 1, 2021 – June 30, 2022