To take full advantage of the information of images captured by drones and given that most existing monocular depth estimation methods based on supervised learning require vast quantities of corresponding ground truth depth data for training, the model of unsupervised monocular depth estimation based on residual neural network of coarse–refined feature extractions for drone is therefore proposed. As a virtual camera is introduced through a deep residual convolution neural network based on coarse–refined feature extractions inspired by the principle of binocular depth estimation, the unsupervised monocular depth estimation has become an image reconstruction problem. To improve the performance of our model for monocular depth estimation, the following innovations are proposed. First, the pyramid processing for input image is proposed to build the topological relationship between the resolution of input image and the depth of input image, which can improve the sensitivity of depth information from a single image and reduce the impact of input image resolution on depth estimation. Second, the residual neural network of coarse–refined feature extractions for corresponding image reconstruction is designed to improve the accuracy of feature extraction and solve the contradiction between the calculation time and the numbers of network layers. In addition, to predict high detail output depth maps, the long skip connections between corresponding layers in the neural network of coarse feature extractions and deconvolution neural network of refined feature extractions are designed. Third, the loss of corresponding image reconstruction based on the structural similarity index (SSIM), the loss of approximate disparity smoothness and the loss of depth map are united as a novel training loss to better train our model. The experimental results show that our model has superior performance on the KITTI dataset composed by corresponding left view and right view and Make3D dataset composed by image and corresponding ground truth depth map compared to the state-of-the-art monocular depth estimation methods and basically meet the requirements for depth information of images captured by drones when our model is trained on KITTI.
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