Mapping land use and land cover changes faster and at scale with deep learning on the cloud (Research Track)

Zhuangfang Yi (Development Seed); Drew Bollinger (Development Seed); Devis Peressutti (Sinergise)

Paper PDF


Policymakers rely on Land Use and Land Cover (LULC) maps for evaluation and planning. They use these maps to plan climate-smart agriculture policy, improve housing resilience (to earthquakes or other natural disasters), and understand how to grow commerce in small communities. A number of institutions have created global land use maps from historic satellite imagery. However, these maps can be outdated and are often inaccurate, particularly in their representation of developing countries. We worked with the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop a LULC deep learning workflow on the cloud that can ingest Sentinel-2 optical imagery for a large scale LULC change detection. It’s an end-to-end workflow that sits on top of two comprehensive tools, SentinelHub, and eo-learn, which seamlessly link earth observation data with machine learning libraries. It can take in the labeled LULC and associated AOI in shapefiles, set up a task to fetch cloud-free, time series imagery stacks within the defined time interval by the users. It will pair the satellite imagery tile with it’s labeled LULC mask for the supervised deep learning model training on the cloud. Once a well-performing model is trained, it can be exported as a Tensorflow/Pytorch serving docker image to work with our cloud-based model inference pipeline. The inference pipeline can automatically scale with the number of images to be processed. Changes in land use are heavily influenced by human activities (e.g. agriculture, deforestation, human settlement expansion) and have been a great source of greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable forest and land management practices vary from region to region, which means having flexible, scalable tools will be critical. With these tools, we can empower analysts, engineers, and decision-makers to see where contributions to climate-smart agricultural, forestry and urban resilience programs can be made.