Mine clearance: how to avoid the danger
Since the short twentieth century, the world has not lived a day in peace. War is everywhere: Africa is dived in bloody civil wars, South America faces the guerilla menace through the Colombian FARC, the ISIS puts fear in the Middle East, Asia still fights in Myanmar and even Europe has Ukraine fighting in its soil
Mines are cheap though the cost to remove it is infinitely higher. Not only in monetary sense, but for each 5000 mines cleared 1 specialist dies and 2 are injured. If you count the past conflicts, you will see you are not safe. Land mines are a real menace as they can remain active several decades after the end of the conflict. Lucky enough technologies anti-mine have been developed and we are going to outline the most relevant to keep you safe:
The United Nations Department of Human Affairs cites that are more than 140 million mines worldwide that poses a risk, in 68 countries. The most common type of landmines is the AP, which are harmful because their position, activation mode and explosive load are uncertain. Furthermore, landmines can be very rustic or posses a high technology incorporate. There are the types which are harder to neutralize through explosives and there are the types which possess anti-disturbance devices. The older the mine, the harder is the demining services as they can be oxidized, wet or dirt, causing unpredictable behavior.
The process can be divided into the following:
Map the mine.
Prepare the landscape to the operation, which can include cutting the vegetation, for example.
Mark each mine in mapped area.
Remove the mine by detonation or removal.
Enforce the protocols of quality, because you need to be sure that the cleared area has no mining advices with a high certainty.
The mapped mines are classified according to its clearance priority, considering the location, the cost and the ground conditions.
This phase is associated to a mine awareness program, objectifying to reduce the civilian victims.
The following are the existing techniques to demine
This is a procedure done by men, where the mines are manually neutralized. The deminer locates the landmine using a metal detector and proceed the uncovering and neutralizing, which can be detonating it or disassembling it. As the mines are localized by metal detectors and the ground where they are usually has infinites particles of it, the process is expensive and takes time.
As it was not enough, mostly mines today are metal free, what makes harder its manual detection.
Demining with nature´s help
You already know dogs can smell anything. But you did not that your best friend can help you to sniff landmines. Their nose is one of the most efficient explosive detections, 10,000 times better than our human noses. These dogs are trained to detect the smell of explosives regardless of the time and conditions the landmines have been exposed. For that reason, the dogs can detect landmines with little explosive content which are undetectable to the metal detectors.
Dogs are easy to transport and are faster than the human counterparts but they are not perfect: they can be confused if the zone possess high quantity of landmines or explosive debris.
Rats. Ok, they are scaring. But they can save lives when trained to detect landmines, being the cheapest form to detect them. They can smell better than dogs, are easier to transport and cheaper to feed than dogs. They can do repetitive tasks and work for more time than dogs. Think twice before hate these little ones.
It relies on the use of motorized mine neutralizers, with equipments adapted from to those of military use. In this sense, it only demines the selected path instead of demining all area. Mechanical mining clearing works unearthing or forcing the landmines to explode. It can be used in all terrains as sand or forests but it works better in larger areas, as it cannot be maneuvered in smaller ones. Due its costs, they are expensive to keep.
Although, the mechanical technique is fast, but it does not reach the human demining accuracy standards, because machines cannot destroy all landmines in the target area, and worst, the landmines can be moved in the sense it can become unstable and cause danger. Furthermore, the transport of heavy machine to certain locations implies a complex logistics in countries where the infrastructure is absent.
Demining is dangerous, and accidents are common. If humans could delegate the work to robots, managing it remotely, the results would be amazing: the human intelligence and the precision of the machines. But the life is not that easy and as the costs are still high, the technology is not widespread.
Furthermore, the technology does exist and you can use robotic solutions adapted to the local conditions in the landmine fields, improving the security of the staff, as well reducing costs and resources.
Companies are developing a cheap but reliable robot platform to improve the land demining services, which will operate in different control modes, including the semiautonomous or tele operated modes, counting on trustful navigation capabilities.
Mine detection is the neuralgic point of the demining process, thus the quality of the mine detector is directly proportional to the efficiency and safety of the process. It needs to work on a high probability of detection basis, speeding up the process.
To develop multi-sensor solutions with multiple sensors which are connected to the computer based decision system, there is need to coordinate efforts in the sense to develop a technique which uses complementary sensor technology to distinguish the explosives from other objects as stones. Though, due the pricing concerning an innovative source and the military characteristic of this technology, we are far from reach an efficient anti demining system for civilian use, putting lives in danger. The best is to avoid the countries which faced armed conflicts and open areas as agriculture terrain.