In the first Gulf War, unmoored floating mines proved to be a real hazard for shipping traffic.
An automated system capable of detecting these and other free-floating small objects, using readily available sensors such as infra-red cameras, would prove to be a valuable mine-warfare asset, and could double as a collision avoidance mechanism, and a search-and-rescue aid. The noisy background provided by the sea surface, and occlusion by waves make it difficult to detect small floating objects using only algorithms based upon the intensity, size or shape of the target. This leads us to look at the sequence of images for temporal detection characteristics. The target's apparent motion is such a determinant, given the contrast between the bobbing motion of the floating object and the strong horizontal component present in the propagation of the wavefronts. We have applied the Proesmans optical flow algorithm to IR video footage of practice mines, in order to extract the motion characteristic and a threshold on the vertical motion characteristic is then imposed to detect the floating targets.