Buoy Light Pattern Classification for Autonomous Ship Navigation using Recurrent Neural Networks

Frederik Emil Thorsson Schöller, Lazaros Nalpantidis, Mogens Blanke

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    In near coast navigation, buoys and beacons convey essential information about dangers. At night-time, selected buoys send out individual blink-sequences that are marked in sea charts. International regulations require that navigation officer on watch makes visual confirmation of objects and their type in order to navigate safely. With rapid developments of highly automated vessels, this duty needs be carried out by algorithms that detect and locate objects without human intervention. At night-time, this requires algorithms that decode blink sequences and are able to classify from this information. The paper investigates this problem and suggests an algorithm that solves the problem. Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN) with Gated Recurrent Units (GRU) are developed for classification. A dedicated architecture is suggested that includes both temporal and color decoding to obtain unique precision. We demonstrate how networks are trained on synthetically generated data, and the paper shows, on real-world data, how the suggested approach yields 100.0% accurate results on 44 real-world recordings while being robust to inaccuracy in actual blink sequences. Comparison with baseline signal processing and with a recent state-of-the-art 3D CNN model shows that the new blink-sequence classifier outperforms alternative algorithms. A showcase of the results of this work is available in this video: https://youtu.be/KEi8qNnKV2w.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalIEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems
    Issue number7
    Pages (from-to)9455-9465
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


    • Autonomous navigation
    • Autonomous marine vessels
    • Computer vision
    • Deep learning
    • Sequence classification


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