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i.edge - Canny edge detector.


raster, canny, edge detection


i.edge --help
i.edge input=name output=name [angles_map=name] [low_threshold=float] [high_threshold=float] [sigma=float] [--overwrite] [--help] [--verbose] [--quiet] [--ui]


Allow output files to overwrite existing files
Print usage summary
Verbose module output
Quiet module output
Force launching GUI dialog


input=name [required]
Name of input raster map
output=name [required]
Name for output raster map
Map with angles
Low treshold for edges in Canny
Default: 3
High treshold for edges in Canny
Default: 10
Kernel radius
Default: 2

Table of contents


i.edge is an edge detector based on the Canny edge detection algorithm [Canny1986]. The Canny edge detector is a filter which detects a wide range of edges in raster maps and produces thin edges as a raster map.


The computational region shall be set to the input map. The module can work only on small images since the data are loaded entirely into memory.


An edge is considered as a change in gradient which is computed from image digital values. There are two main noticeable differences between Canny filter and other edge detectors. First, the others algorithm usually output broad lines (edges) while Canny filter outputs one-pixel-wide line(s) which represents the most probable edge position [Russ2011]. Second, the Canny filter combines several steps together while other filters have only one step and often require some pre- or post-processing to get results which allows further processing. However, it must be noted that by applying subsequent filters, thresholding and edge thinning one can get similar results also from other edge detectors. The implementation used for i.edge module is based on code from [Gibara2010].

Canny edge detector is considered as optimal edge detector according to these three criteria [Sonka1999]:

  1. important edges cannot be omitted and only actual edges can be detected as edges (no false positives);
  2. difference in position of the real edge and the detected edge is minimal;
  3. there is only one detected edge for an edge in original image.

The algorithm consists of a few steps. Firstly, the noise is reduced by a Gaussian filter (based on normal distribution); the result is smoothed image. Secondly, two orthogonal gradient images are computed. These images are combined, so the final gradient can be defined by an angle and a magnitude (value). Next step is non-maximum suppression which preserves only pixels with magnitude higher than magnitude of other pixels in the direction (and the opposite direction) of gradient. Finally, only relevant or significant edges extracted by thresholding with hysteresis. This thresholding uses two constants; if a pixel magnitude is above the higher one (hT), it is kept. Pixels with the magnitude under the lower threshold (lT) are removed. Pixels with magnitude values between these two constants are kept only when the pixels has some neighbor pixels with magnitude higher than the high threshold [Sonka1999].

Inputs and parameters

The input is a gray scale image (a raster map). Usually, this gray scale image is an intensity channel obtained by RGB to HIS conversion. Some other possibilities include color edges (obtained from RGB color channels) which may give slightly better results [Zimmermann2000]. In theory, i.edge module can be applied not only to images but also to digital elevation models and other data with abrupt changes in raster values. The output is a binary raster where ones denote edges and zeros denote everything else. There are also possible byproducts or intermediate products which can be part of the output, namely edge angles (gradient orientations). By changing parameters of the module one can easily achieve different levels of detail. There are 3 parameters which affect the result. A sigma value and two threshold values, low_threshold (lT) high_threshold (hT). It is recommended to use lT and hT threshold values in ratio (computed as hT/lT) between 2 and 3 [Sonka1999].


# set the region (resolution) to Landsat image
g.region raster=lsat7_2000_20@landsat

# set the region to experimetal area
g.region n=224016 s=220981 w=637589 e=641223

# compute PCA for all Landsat maps for year 2002
i.pca input=`g.list pattern="lsat7_2002*" type=rast sep=,` output_prefix=lsat_pca

# run edge detection on first component
i.edge input=lsat_pca.1@PERMANENT output=lsat_pca_1_edges

# set no edges areas to NULL (for visualization)
r.null map=lsat_pca_1_edges@PERMANENT setnull=0


Computational region shall be set to input map. The module can work only on small images since map is loaded into memory. Edge strengths (gradient values) are not provided as an output but might be added in the future.



i.zc, r.mapcalc


Anna Kratochvilova, Vaclav Petras

Last changed: $Date: 2017-01-19 16:39:35 +0100 (Thu, 19 Jan 2017) $


Available at: i.edge source code (history)

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