Two projects for landmine detection have received together £1m of funding to develop low cost systems to help clear landmines in developing countries.
University College London (UCL) and Cranfield University (CA) will work together on a portable ground penetrating radar system capable of searching for land mines in various terrains while a team from the King’s College will further develop their quadrupole resonance system to allow remote detection of landmines in the field with a significant reduction in the risk to the demining teams.
Whereas the Determine project, run jointly by UCL and CA, is scheduled to last for three years, the King’s College researchers have 18 months to complete their work.
Both teams were selected by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the funding was provided by the Find the Better Way charity, founded by Sir Bobby Charlton after a visit to Bosnia and Cambodia.
The goal is for the devices to be as low cost as possible to be affordable for poor developing countries. The low price tag shouldn’t, however, compromise reliability of the devices.
“Landmine clearance is a major global problem. Currently, minefields are swept manually using a metal detector and many hours are spent carefully digging out objects many of which turn out to be non-explosive elements discarded on a former battlefield,” said Professor Hugh Griffiths, Chair of Radio Frequency Sensors at UCL.
The joint UCL-Cranfield team will search for electronic signatures of landmines while combining UCL’s experience with biostatic radars with Cranfield’s knowledge of ground penetrating radars.
“We propose to build on previous research to bring forward a new generation of ground penetrating radar which is both fast and very accurate,” said Hugh Morrow, Senior Lecturer in electromagnetics at Cranfield. “The plan is to develop algorithms for the detection of landmines which can be embedded in a range of GPR systems so that our technology can be made available to a wide range of demining teams.”
At King’s College London, Professor Kaspar Althoefer and Dr Panos Kosmas have carried-out previous research into the non-invasive detection and identification of landmines and other explosives with remote probes. This has led to new approaches that can be conducted with less risk to human life.
The main aim of their work is to achieve shorter detection times, higher probability of detection and lower false alarm rates through the use of multiple sensing systems, data fusion and the application of intelligent classification algorithms.
“Landmines impose devastating societal and economic consequences on affected communities, but significant progress in research, with the UK being an active player, has been made in the last decade,” Professor Althoefer said.
“For this project for Find A Better Way, we propose to build on our experience of producing a QR system-in-a-suitcase and turn it into a mobile platform capable of being used in a variety of environments as a confirmation sensor for mine clearance efforts.”
According to the United Nations, there are about 110 million landmines in former war zones, yet the technology used to find the landmines is roughly the same now as used at the time of the Second World War.