An innovative landmine detector that can see underground and spot even landmines made of plastic is being developed by British researchers.
Part of a three-year project funded through Sir Bobby Charlton’s charity Find A Better Way (FABW), the device aims to become the first major innovation in landmine detection since the Second World War.
“Currently, manual metal detectors sweep minefields in a slow and time-consuming process which cannot detect non-metallic landmines,” explained Manuchehr Soleimani, Associate Professor of Electronic and Electrical Engineering at the University of Bath, who leads the £100m project.
“We aim to develop an integrated technology to detect both metallic and non-metallic landmines and to improve the speed and reliability of this process.”
The advanced capacitive/inductive camera developed by the team can see up to 10cm underground and detect conventional metal as well as newer plastic-based landmines that are so hard to spot by conventional metal detection techniques.
The new detector will be able to differentiate between images of plastic and metallic elements within a single device burried in varied terrain. Initial findings have demonstrated positive results for the technology at finding both dielectric and metallic samples.
“The UN estimates that it would take more than 1,100 years to clear the estimated 110 million landmines situated in 70 countries,” said Sir Bobby Charlton, who founded the Find A Better Way charity after witnessing the pain and suffering the concealed explosives can cause.
“Our partnership with the University of Bath will help us to make significant progress with our aim to deliver significant improvements in demining detection capability to ultimately negate the effects landmines and explosive remnants of war pose across the globe.”
While a single landmine costs £2 to purchase, it may cost anything between £120 and £600 to find and safely dispose of. Affordability will thus be a major requirement for the new system that needs to be lightweight and possible to integrate within a robot alongside other sensors.
“It is exciting to see early positive results from this important, life-saving research which could really benefit people and communities around the world,” commented Professor Gary Hawley, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering & Design of the University of Bath.