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African elephants surveyed using AI

Date: 07 January 2021 Tags: IT, Mobile & Computers


A new approach for surveying African elephants using satellite imagery and artificial intelligence (AI) could help in conservation of the unique species.



  • A satellite orbiting in space is capable of capturing more than 5,000 square kilometre of imagery in a single run, within minutes.

  • It not only eliminates the risk of double counting, but also makes it possible to conduct repeat surveys at short intervals.

  • The captured imagery is processed through a deep learning model to detect elephants. The team used a customised dataset of over 1000 elephants in South Africa, to train the model.

  • The current techniques used for surveying the elephants like using manned aircraft for aerial counts can be costly, hindered by poor visibility, and logistically challenging.



  • Machines are less prone to error, false negatives, and false positives in deep learning algorithms.

  • Elephants can be detected in satellite imagery with accuracy as high as human detection capabilities. 

  • The model was able to spot elephants in places away from the training data location, and also identify calves even though it was only trained on adults.

  • The remote detection method makes it possible to monitor cross-border areas without terrestrial permits. These areas are usually important to conservation planning.


Deep learning

  • Deep learning is an AI function that mimics the workings of the human brain in processing data for use in detecting objects, recognizing speech, translating languages, and making decisions. 

  • Deep learning AI is able to learn without human supervision, drawing from data that is both unstructured and unlabeled.



  • Digital era has brought about an explosion of data in all forms and from every region of the world. This data, known simply as big data, is drawn from sources like social media, internet search engines, e-commerce platforms etc.

  • Using the data effectively and identifying the trend shown by the data is very important in analytics. This method is called big data analytics and has become very important in recent times.

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