Automated detection of geological landforms on Mars using Convolutional Neural Networks

Leon F. Palafox, Christopher W. Hamilton, Stephen P. Scheidt, Alexander M. Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Scopus citations


The large volume of high-resolution images acquired by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has opened a new frontier for developing automated approaches to detecting landforms on the surface of Mars. However, most landform classifiers focus on crater detection, which represents only one of many geological landforms of scientific interest. In this work, we use Convolutional Neural Networks (ConvNets) to detect both volcanic rootless cones and transverse aeolian ridges. Our system, named MarsNet, consists of five networks, each of which is trained to detect landforms of different sizes. We compare our detection algorithm with a widely used method for image recognition, Support Vector Machines (SVMs) using Histogram of Oriented Gradients (HOG) features. We show that ConvNets can detect a wide range of landforms and has better accuracy and recall in testing data than traditional classifiers based on SVMs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-56
Number of pages9
JournalComputers and Geosciences
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Convolutional neural networks
  • Mars
  • Support vector machines
  • Transverse aeolian ridges
  • Volcanic rootless cones

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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