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    New radar detects anti-personnel mines with greater effectiveness

Innovation can also help finding IEDs, most of which are made of PVC pipes or plastic containers. This new invention was developed by Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal), Universidad de Los Andes, Technische Universität Ilmena and Ruhr-University Bochum university researchers.

Through interpreting data electric signals returned from signals emitted from the radar they can determine if there are foreign objects which are not normally there. Then they “train” the radar to detect real explosives such as ANFO, pentolite and dynamite.

UNal Department of Electronic Engineering Professor Félix Vega says that every time the antenna sends a signal to the ground it maps a line. Using this data and once the doted map is formed, the algorithm rebuilds a volume which helps to detect forms, linking them to known objects, such as cans, rocks, bottles or bones.

Although there are several techniques in Colombia to find mines, such as metal detectors, other types of radars and specially trained dogs, the UNal designed radar helps increase the certainness range of an object discovered to be differentiated with an accurateness of up to 80%.

According to the Comprehensive Action Against Anti-personnel Mines Directorate (DAICMA, for its Spanish acronym) and based on pilot tests carried out in the Provinces of Meta and  Antioquia, detecting mines demands developing efficient and inexpensive techniques, as freeing 52 million square meters of mines can cost up to US $827 million. As of September of 2017, 4,233,687 m2 have been taken care of.

UNal designed radar helps increase the certainness range of an object discovered to be differentiated with an accurateness of up to 80%.

In regards to the effects on the population, as of October 31st past, there had been 11,513 victims of anti-personnel mines, of which 9,237 had been injured and 2,276 died (DAICMA data).

The following provinces head the list of territories with the greatest amount of people affected in Colombia:

  • Province of Antioquia (2,535 cases)
  • Province of Meta (1,136)
  • Province of Caquetá (935)
  • Province of Nariño (866)
  • Province of Norte de Santander (806)

The mines in these areas are mostly located around cocaine crops and which detection is made by hand, in a process in which every square meter can take up to one hour to analyze. The topsoil can have up to 1 mt. (3 ft.) deep; therefore this radar is useful to identify these types of artifacts, in an estimated timeframe of five minutes per square meter.

How are mines found?

The radar detects the presence of a mine or IED identifying the contrast produced by comparing differences in ground dioelectric signals and that of the explosive devices, which vary with respect to the capability of being polarized by an electric field. This is not an easy task as signals look alike, therefore the use of the aforementioned algorithms to help detect, identify, or reject signals.

The radar captures images similar to an X-Ray, and according to Professor Vega, for the device to carry out this action it needs to be trained to identify different types of objects. Only in this manner it can establish that when an alert is produced it is effectively a mine and not objects such as rocks, branches, cans, unexploded bullet or grenades, among others.

“Making the detection faster depends of the progress of the radar without the need to stop every time it finds obstacles”, said Vega.  He also added that the research project was funded by the German Research Funding Institution known as DFG and the Colombian Administrative Department for Science Technology and Innovation (Colciencias, for its Spanish acronym) as part of a project entitled, “Microwave Project for Humanitarian Applications in Colombia.”

The device has a cabinet with a computer and between 4 and 8 antennas; it has the capability of moving 10 cm. (0.4 ft.) over the ground and could be also used for other applications. The new radar could help diminish the costs linked to working with real explosives and hiring mine-detection experts, a cost estimated in more than US $5 million a year

The device may also be used in archeological exploration, identifying pipelines, identifying mass graves or inclusively identifying the thickness and type of pavement on roads.

The demining process requires teams of approximately 150 people, for demining and security, such as

  • 42 detectors
  • 42 sonar operators
  • 21 explosive experts
  • 21 paramedics
  • 21 commanders
  • 3 physicians

The device may also be used in archeological exploration, identifying pipelines, identifying mass graves or inclusively identifying the thickness and type of pavement on roads.

Life-saving plastic

One of the contributions of this new device was developing a material which mimics real mines and used for testing. This was obtained thanks to the help of Ruhr-University Bochum professor Christoph Baher and UNal Electric Engineering Ph.D. candidate Sergio Gutiérrez.

It is a polymer which helps make a mock-up of an IED and the data provided by this plastic provides similar data of that of a real device. “This material has the capability of storing an electric charge different from the rest of the terrain, sending signals similar to an explosive device, said the UNal researcher.”

“The new material was developed from a series of anti-personnel mine models, whose results are being processed to determine the electromagnetic characteristics of these explosive devices,” said Gutiérrez, who is also part of the UNal Electromagnetic Compatibility Research Group.

When the material analysis stage is completed it may opt for patent and it will also serve as an essential research element for research efforts carried out both in Colombia and Germany for anti-personnel mine eradication in the world.

This development will help military institutions of Cambodia, Angola, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua eradicate mines and make progress in mine research without recurring to real explosives.

 

Consejo Editorial