Seeing the Wind: Visual Wind Speed Prediction with a Coupled Convolutional and Recurrent Neural Network

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Jennifer Cardona, Michael Howland, John Dabiri


Wind energy resource quantification, air pollution monitoring, and weather forecasting all rely on rapid, accurate measurement of local wind conditions. Visual observations of the effects of wind---the swaying of trees and flapping of flags, for example---encode information regarding local wind conditions that can potentially be leveraged for visual anemometry that is inexpensive and ubiquitous. Here, we demonstrate a coupled convolutional neural network and recurrent neural network architecture that extracts the wind speed encoded in visually recorded flow-structure interactions of a flag and tree in naturally occurring wind. Predictions for wind speeds ranging from 0.75-11 m/s showed agreement with measurements from a cup anemometer on site, with a root-mean-squared error approaching the natural wind speed variability due to atmospheric turbulence. Generalizability of the network was demonstrated by successful prediction of wind speed based on recordings of other flags in the field and in a controlled wind tunnel test. Furthermore, physics-based scaling of the flapping dynamics accurately predicts the dependence of the network performance on the video frame rate and duration.