Drones to Detect Dangerous Butterfly Landmines

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These drones can be used to detect dangerous butterfly landmines in remote regions of post-conflict countries.

Researchers from Binghamton University have developed a method that allows highly accurate detection of butterfly landmines from low-cost commercial drones.

Method used to detect landmines

The drones use mounted infrared cameras to remotely map the dynamic thermal conditions of the surface and recorded unique thermal signatures associated with the plastic casings of the mines. During an early-morning experiment, researchers found that the mines heated up at a much greater rate than surrounding rocks. Due to this, they were able to identify the mines by their shape and apparent thermal signature.

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They explained that these results indicate that this methodology holds considerable potential to rapidly identify the presence of surface plastic of these mines during early-morning hours when these devices become thermal anomalies relative to surrounding geology.

It is estimated that there are around 100 million military munitions and explosives of concern devices of various size, shape and composition in the world. Millions of these are surface plastic landmines with low-pressure triggers, for example, the mass-produced Soviet PFM-1 butterfly landmine. They are called butterfly because of their small size and butterfly-like shape. These mines are extremely difficult to locate and clear due to their small size, low trigger mass. Moreover, It designed excluding metal components; hence, they are virtually invisible to metal detectors.

Critically, the design of the mine combined with a low triggering weight has earned its notoriety as ‘the toy mine’ due to a high casualty rate among small children who find these devices while playing and who are the primary victims of the PFM-1 in post-conflict nations, like Afghanistan.

Researchers believe that this method holds great potential for eventual wide-spread use in post-conflict countries, as it increases detection accuracy and allows for rapid wide-area assessment without the need for an operator to come into contact or even proximity of the minefield.

They now hope to develop a fully autonomous multi-drone system, which will require minimal input from an operator.

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