Using lasers and bacteria to remotely map the location of buried landmines and unexploded ordnance

Remote detection of buried landmines is a possible application of system to remotely detect buried landmines using a bacterial sensor and a laser-based scanning system. Credit: Hebrew University

The need for safe and efficient technologies for detecting buried landmines and unexploded ordnance is a humanitarian issue of immense global proportions. About half a million people around the world are suffering from mine-inflicted injuries, and each year an additional 15 to 20 thousand more people are injured or killed by these devices. More than 100 million such devices are still buried in over 70 countries.

The major technical challenge in clearing minefields is detecting the mines. The technologies used today are not much different from those used in World War II, requiring detection teams to risk life and limb by physically entering the minefields. Clearly, there is a critical need for an efficient solution for the remote detection of buried landmines and unexploded ordnance.

Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem now report a potential answer to this need. Writing in the journal Nature Biotechnology, they present a novel, functional system combining lasers and to remotely map the location of buried landmines and unexploded ordnance.

The system is based on the observation that all landmines leak minute quantities of explosive vapors, which accumulate in the soil above them and serve as markers for their presence. The researchers molecularly engineered live bacteria that emit a fluorescent signal when they come into contact with these vapors. This signal can be recorded and quantified from a remote location.

Learn more: Glowing bacteria detect buried landmines




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Landmine detection using drones

(From left) Dr Oliver Payton and Dr John Day with Sir Bobby Charlton on a visit to mine clearance operations in Croatia

(From left) Dr Oliver Payton and Dr John Day with Sir Bobby Charlton on a visit to mine clearance operations in Croatia

University of Bristol scientists researching how drones can be used to speed up landmine clearance flew a drone over Old Trafford on UN International Day for Mine Awareness – to demonstrate how large, football pitch-sized areas can be mapped quickly.

The research, led by Dr John Day of the Interface Analysis Centre in Bristol’s School of Physics, is funded by Find A Better Way, the charity founded by England and Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton.  Find A Better Way is currently funding nine different university programmes in the UK and Croatia researching faster, cheaper, and safer methods of landmine detection.

There are an estimated 110 million active landmines in the world today, most of which are located in less developed countries.  Clearing these mines using current technologies would cost an estimated $30 billion and take over 1,000 years.

The Bristol researchers plan to speed up mine detection by flying drones over potential minefields. The drones will obtain high-resolution images that show the terrain and objects visible on the surface clearly.

John Fardoulis, project researcher in the Interface Analysis Centre, said: “Flying over the Manchester United pitch will demonstrate that we can map a football pitch-sized area of land in two hours or less.  Clearing a minefield that size can currently take months, and the maps our drones will generate should help deminers focus on the places where mines are most likely to be found.  This will speed the process up and make the demining significantly safer.”

The team also hope to develop hyperspectral imaging techniques, which will allow them to obtain a separate image of an area at many different wavelengths or colours of light. These images could detect the effects explosive chemicals have on vegetation as a means of identifying mined areas.

Dr Day explained: “Living plants have a very distinctive reflection in the near infrared spectrum, just beyond human vision, which makes it possible to tell how healthy they are.  Chemicals in landmines leak out and are often absorbed by plants, causing abnormalities.  Looking for these changes might be a way of discovering the whereabouts of mines.

“Infrared light can also assist detecting man-made objects on the surface of mine fields, as they do not produce this infrared reflection.  Unexploded ordinances or camouflaged mines on a green field can be difficult to see in normal light, but infrared light can make them stand out from surrounding foliage.  Drones taking infrared pictures to map suspected danger zones may provide a quick and safe way to tell if an area is likely to be hazardous.”

Learn more: Bristol scientists fly drone over Old Trafford to research landmine clearance



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Footwear-Based Land Mine Detection


One of the most insidious remnants of war-torn terrain can be left over landmines.

One of the most insidious remnants of war-torn terrain can be left over landmines.

Nearly undetectable and almost always forgotten landmines can cripple and kill innocents well after a conflict has been settled. To help remedy this problem Colombian design firm Lemur Studio has developed a landmine detector concept that’s easy to use and extremely portable.

SaveOneLife is a miniature mine detector that fits inside the sole of a shoe. Built using a conductive metal coil that radiates an electromagnetic frequency the device can spot large piece of metal that are nearby, including landmines.

“The device was created with the goal of saving a life, hence the name, first by the families of the victims and second for the cost effects of military forces by the loss of his men in combat,” says Iván Pérez, Lemur’s creative director.

To notify wearers if they’re about to stumble into an area where a landmine might be hidden the SaveOneLife system also comes with a watch-like interface that alerts a wearer to the position of any nearby trouble with an easy to read locator map.

Read more . . .


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DIGGER DTR D-3 robot hunts for mines

According to UNICEF, there are currently over 110 million live land mines buried in the soil of various countries around the world, left over from conflicts that occurred up to 50 years ago.

While various organizations are working on locating and removing those mines, it’s proving to be a long and laborious process. Instead of precisely pinpointing and then disarming each device, however, one has to wonder … wouldn’t it be easier to just go around thumping on the ground and getting them to go off? Well, it just happens that DIGGER DTR’s hulking D-3 robotic vehicle does exactly that.

The remote-controlled track-driven D-3 is capable of triggering mines using either a chain flail or tiller attachment, down to a depth of 25 centimeters (9.8 in). By swapping in standard Caterpillar attachments such as shovels or forks, it can also perform functions such as the clearing of vegetation or debris. Its body is completely steel-plated, and features a V-shaped undercarriage, designed to deflect the force of explosions out to either side. Its mechanical systems, including hydraulics, cooling, and the 173 hp John Deere diesel engine, are easy for field mechanics to access via large hatches – keep in mind, this machine is often used in remote locations, lacking in infrastructure.

It can reportedly clear all of the mines from an area at a rate of 1,000 square meters (10,764 sq. ft.) an hour.

Read more . . .