Feeds

Boffins trial cheap landmine sniff-tech

Technology helps people shocker

Build a business case: developing custom apps

American boffins reckon they may have found a way to build landmine-detecting equipment more cheaply, possibly offering hope to dispossessed people in warzones around the world.

Landmines are cheap to make and easy to lay. Once laid, they are difficult and dangerous to clear up: so much so that minefields often become effectively permanent. Productive farmland can pass out of use, even when a given conflict is over, and people lose their homes and livelihoods forever. It's not so much that the mines can't be cleared, just that it doesn't make economic sense to do it.

Part of the problem lies in the cost of detecting buried mines. A lot of the more modern ones are largely non-metallic in construction, deliberately hard to find with basic metal-detecting magnetic gear. There are other methods which can find them safely, but they mostly involve expensive hardware. Examples include ground-penetrating radars, for instance. That's OK for a well-funded Western military or contractor clearance team, looking maybe to open up an important route.

It won't do, though, for a Third-World villager needing to clear a few fields to get some crops planted. His farm will never make enough money to pay for the use of complex gear; he needs something a lot cheaper. A surprisingly good job can be done with eyes and a thin metal probe, but if the mines have been buried for a long time these methods become very dangerous, to the point where it's hard for one person to clear enough ground to support a family before getting killed (or, more likely, crippled in some way). The equation of blood, money, and land can be impossible to solve.

Enter Gregg Larson and James Martin of the Georgia Institute of Technology. They report that it's possible, at least in a laboratory environment, to detect buried landmines using a relatively cheap acoustic system.

According to their report, published this month: "Commercially available microphones were investigated as near-ground sensors... images formed using microphone data collected in a laboratory experimental model clearly locate buried inert landmines but exhibit more clutter than images of the same objects formed with seismic displacement data collected using other techniques."

(Abstract here. The full document is pay-to-read.)

Larson and Martin's techniques could offer a basis for a more affordable sensor system, cutting the cost of landmine clearance. Charities and NGOs could clear more area for the same money, and a loan that a small farm could afford might suffice to clear it in the first place. A bit of extra display clutter might be worth putting up with, in that kind of scenario.

NewScientist reports that the microphones in question could cost as little as $65, compared to radar imaging gear with a pricetag in the thousands. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.