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Camera Drones To Be Used for Landmine Detection

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Governments are debating the use of drones, the primary concern being the safety of the civilian population. In what seems to be a nice leap for the pro-drone populace, scientists in Britain are using drone camera technology to better identify deadly landmines, and speeding up the process of clearing them out.

There are an estimated 110 million anti-personnel mines buried across the world. As if this number wasn’t daunting of its own accord, clearing these mines using current technologies is approximated to take 1000 years!

However, a group of researchers from the University of Bristol are looking to hasten the process, employing camera drones to ensure safer and more efficient mine removal.

Camera drones to be used to detect landmines
Dr. Oliver Payton and Dr. John Day (with Sir Bobby Charlton) at a mine clearance site in Craotia

The glaring advantage of using drones is that lives aren’t put in harm’s way while searching for mines, as drones can be controlled easily from a distance. Also, the modular nature of drone accessories makes experimenting very plausible.

“Dormant ordinances or camouflaged mines on a green field can be difficult to see in normal light, but infrared light can make them stand out from surrounding foliage,” Day said.

High-quality images of the surface from camera drones are another obvious benefit of this technique, but the research team is going one step further. They hope to develop hyper-spectral imaging techniques, which will allow them to recognise the effects of explosive chemicals on growing vegetation. This, in turn will expose mined areas.

“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,” said Dr. John Day, the team’s lead researcher. “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.”

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The drones being used in the project are all commercially available, which is perfect for an application such as this where affordability matters. The project is being funded by Find A Better Way, which is a charity dedicated to finding safer methods to detect and remove landmines. It started in January 2016, and will go on for two years.