Landmines would be ineffective weapons if they were easy to detect or if
their presence was clearly marked. Therefore they often lie undetected and
forgotten in the soil, years after a conflict has ceased, until they are
usually tragically disturbed by civilians often children.
Additional complexity is caused by the variety of landmines which have been
produced and planted in various conflicts. Some, of almost all plastic
construction defeat metal detection, some are buried higher or lower in the
soil while others feature varieties of detonation method or fusing which can
foil mechanical destruction techniques.
The main problem with plastic landmines is that many contain very little
metal, making it necessary to use extremely sensitive metal detectors, which
then also detect all manner of scrap metallic objects and battlefield debris.
The aim of multi-sensor systems is largely to reduce this false alarm rate and
make detection and clearance faster and safer.
Despite various worthy conventions on their continuing use, landmines have
been laid in conflicts around the world to such an extent that they continue to
deny civilian populations access to their land, continue to cripple and kill
innocent children and their clearance remains a slow, predominantly manual and
costly operation around the world.
Sensatech is working on a project funded by QinetiQ to try to detect and
possibly identify landmines within a soil without contacting or transmitting
any pressure to the soil and without causing any type of landmine to be
Sensatech are approaching this task using arrays of capacitive sensors and
non-contact 3d tomography techniques to try to map the soil under a sensor and
detect objects embedded within the soil under the surface.
Assuming that sufficient definition and resolution could be obtained to the
required depth within the soil, embedded objects could be compared to a
database of known landmine types and a fit made if objects found in the soil
match a known landmine type.
Additionally, it may be possible using capacitive and electric field
techniques to try to identify the chemical composition of various elements at a
range. This could allow the detection of materials within landmines such as
various plastics or explosives.
Landmine detection is an ongoing project at Sensatech, where development is
focusing on various modules that would be required for an eventual system. A
functional system would involve hardware, arrays and processing electronics,
interpretive software for fast data analysis and comparison techniques to
resolve data and match objects. Significant testing would be required at later
stages to confirm simulated performance on the variety of soil and environment
conditions where landmine clearance is being undertaken.
A humanitarian landmine detector for field use is being developed in
collaroration with QinetiQ.