Hummingbirds, 3D Printing, and Deep Learning

Setting camera traps in your garden to see what local wildlife is around is quite popular. But [Chris Lam] has just one subject in mind: the hummingbird. He devised a custom setup to capture the footage he wanted using some neat tech.

To attract the hummingbirds, [Chris] used an off-the-shelf feeder — no need to re-invent the wheel there. To obtain the closeup footage required, a 4K action cam was used. This was attached to the feeder with a 3D-printed mount that [Chris] designed.

When it came to detecting the presence of a hummingbird in the video, there were various approaches that could have been considered. On the hardware side, PIR and ultrasonic distance sensors are popular for projects of this kind, but [Chris] wanted a pure software solution. The commonly used motion detection libraries for this type of project might have fallen over here, since the whole feeder was swinging in the air on a string, so [Chris] opted for machine learning.

A RESNET architecture was used to run a classification on each frame, to determine if the image contained a hummingbird or not. The initial attempt was not greatly successful, but after cropping the image to a smaller area around the feeder, classification accuracy greatly increased. After a bit of FFmpeg magic, the selected snippets were concatenated to make one video containing all the interesting parts; you can see the result in the clip after the break.

It seems that machine learning and wildlife cams are a match made in heaven. We’ve already written about a proof-of-concept project which identifies different animals in the footage when motion is detected.

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DARPA’s hummingbird spybot

Nope, this isn’t some extravagant fishing lure, it’s the US Government’s newest way to spy on its people enemies. The hummingbird bot has no problems flying like an actual hummingbird while recording video. It was developed by a company called Aerovironment as part of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract. Of course details are scarce, but you can see the device flying around while broadcasting its video feed after the break. Sure, it’s making much more noise than you would expect from an actual hummingbird, but this is just the version that they’re shown off publicly, right?

It has certainly come a long way since the company was awarded the contract few years back. We assume that the hummingbird is the realization of research efforts pumped into their ornithopter project. Those proofs of concept from 2009 on what was called Project Mercury showed off a winged flyer in a controlled environment. To see this year’s model flying out in the open is pretty neat.

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