Exploration of motion inhibition for the suppression of false positives in biologically inspired small target detection algorithms from a moving platform

Aaron Melville-Smith, Anthony Finn, Muhammad Uzair, Russell S.A. Brinkworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Detecting small moving targets against a cluttered background in visual data is a challenging task. The main problems include spatio-temporal target contrast enhancement, background suppression and accurate target segmentation. When targets are at great distances from a non-stationary camera, the difficulty of these challenges increases. In such cases the moving camera can introduce large spatial changes between frames which may cause issues in temporal algorithms; furthermore targets can approach a single pixel, thereby affecting spatial methods. Previous literature has shown that biologically inspired methods, based on the vision systems of insects, are robust to such conditions. It has also been shown that the use of divisive optic-flow inhibition with these methods enhances the detectability of small targets. However, the location within the visual pathway the inhibition should be applied was ambiguous. In this paper, we investigated the tunings of some of the optic-flow filters and use of a nonlinear transform on the optic-flow signal to modify motion responses for the purpose of suppressing false positives and enhancing small target detection. Additionally, we looked at multiple locations within the biologically inspired vision (BIV) algorithm where inhibition could further enhance detection performance, and look at driving the nonlinear transform with a global motion estimate. To get a better understanding of how the BIV algorithm performs, we compared to other state-of-the-art target detection algorithms, and look at how their performance can be enhanced with the optic-flow inhibition. Our explicit use of the nonlinear inhibition allows for the incorporation of a wider dynamic range of inhibiting signals, along with spatio-temporal filter refinement, which further increases target-background discrimination in the presence of camera motion. Extensive experiments shows that our proposed approach achieves an improvement of 25% over linearly conditioned inhibition schemes and 2.33 times the detection performance of the BIV model without inhibition. Moreover, our approach achieves between 10 and 104 times better detection performance compared to any conventional state-of-the-art moving object detection algorithm applied to the same, highly cluttered and moving scenes. Applying the nonlinear inhibition to other algorithms showed that their performance can be increased by up to 22 times. These findings show that the application of optic-flow- based signal suppression should be applied to enhance target detection from moving platforms. Furthermore, they indicate where best to look for evidence of such signals within the insect brain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-685
Number of pages25
JournalBiological Cybernetics
Issue number5-6
Early online date28 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Biological vision
  • Optic flow
  • Saliency enhancement
  • Target detection


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