British University Tests Drones That Scan For Evidence Of Landmines

Clever robots seek simple bombs

Antipersonnel Landmine
Antipersonnel landmineMoserB

Landmines never stop waiting. The simple machines are explosives with triggers, set in the ground primed and ready for someone to set them off. For landmines, the war never ends. For humans, war does, and the landmines that once marked the front line between warring factions can change instead to deadly artifacts, a lethal trap for anyone who wanders unknowingly into danger. Getting rid of landmines is a humanitarian concern. To solve it, scientists from the University of Bristol are enlisting the help of drones.

Bristol Mine Finding Drone

Bristol Mine Finding Drone

A jetsonian droid.Screenshot by author, from YouTube

One of the major dangers with landmines is that, while they're waiting in the ground to blow up, the vegetation around them isn't, and after a few seasons, plants can grow over the bombs, hiding them from human eyes. But there are other ways to detect them, says John Day of Bristol's School of Physics:

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 in detecting man-made objects on the surface of minefields, as they do not produce this infrared reflection.... 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.

The project is sponsored by Find A Better Way, a British charity dedicated to finding, well, a better way to get rid of landmines. Watch a video from them below explaining the project, and the roles drones have in protecting humans from the consequences of our wars: