Driven by the prominent thermal signature of humans and following the growing availability of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), more and more research efforts have been focusing on the detection and tracking of pedestrians using thermal infrared images recorded from UAVs. However, pedestrian detection and tracking from the thermal images obtained from UAVs pose many challenges due to the low-resolution of imagery, platform motion, image instability and the relatively small size of the objects. This research tackles these challenges by proposing a pedestrian detection and tracking system. A two-stage blob-based approach is first developed for pedestrian detection. This approach first extracts pedestrian blobs using the regional gradient feature and geometric constraints filtering and then classifies the detected blobs by using a linear Support Vector Machine (SVM) with a hybrid descriptor, which sophisticatedly combines Histogram of Oriented Gradient (HOG) and Discrete Cosine Transform (DCT) features in order to achieve accurate detection. This research further proposes an approach for pedestrian tracking. This approach employs the feature tracker with the update of detected pedestrian location to track pedestrian objects from the registered videos and extracts the motion trajectory data. The proposed detection and tracking approaches have been evaluated by multiple different datasets, and the results illustrate the effectiveness of the proposed methods. This research is expected to significantly benefit many transportation applications, such as the multimodal traffic performance measure, pedestrian behavior study and pedestrian-vehicle crash analysis. Future work will focus on using fused thermal and visual images to further improve the detection efficiency and effectiveness.
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