NOAH-H, a deep-learning, terrain classification system for Mars: Results for the ExoMars Rover candidate landing sites

Barrett, Alexander M.; Balme, Matthew R.; Woods, Mark; Karachalios, Spyros; Petrocelli, Danilo; Joudrier, Luc and Sefton-Nash, Elliot (2022). NOAH-H, a deep-learning, terrain classification system for Mars: Results for the ExoMars Rover candidate landing sites. Icarus, 371, article no. 114701.



In this investigation a deep learning terrain classification system, the “Novelty or Anomaly Hunter – HiRISE” (NOAH-H), was used to classify High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) images of Oxia Planum and Mawrth Vallis. A set of ontological classes was developed that covered the variety of surface textures and aeolian bedforms present at both sites. Labelled type-examples of these classes were used to train a Deep Neural Network (DNN) to perform semantic segmentation in order to identify these classes in further HiRISE images.

This contribution discusses the methods and results of the study from a geomorphologists perspective, providing a case study applying machine learning to a landscape classification task. Our aim is to highlight considerations about how to compile training datasets, select ontological classes, and understand what such systems can and cannot do. We highlight issues that arise when adapting a traditional planetary mapping workflow to the production of training data. We discuss both the pixel scale accuracy of the model, and how qualitative factors can influence the reliability and usability of the output.

We conclude that “landscape level” reliability is critical for the use of the output raster by humans. The output can often be more useful than pixel scale accuracy statistics would suggest, however the product must be treated with caution, and not considered a final arbiter of geological origin. A good understanding of how and why the model classifies different landscape features is vital to interpreting it reliably. When used appropriately the classified raster provides a good indication of the prevalence and distribution of different terrain types, and informs our understanding of the study areas. We thus conclude that it is fit for purpose, and suitable for use in further work.

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