Working to help keep humans out of harm’s way, British scientists are turning to drone camera technology to more effectively identify deadly landmines, ultimately hoping to speed up the clearing of affected areas.
According to Care.org, there are an estimated 110 million anti-personnel mines in the ground. And with estimates to clear these mines using current technologies to take over 1,000 years, a team of University of Bristol researchers is hoping that their research utilizing drone imagery will enable safer and more efficient clearance of landmines.
In addition to the obvious benefits of using drones to quickly obtain high-resolution images that maps objects visible on the surface, the scientists hope to develop hyperspectral imaging techniques that could detect the effects explosive chemicals have on vegetation as a means of identifying 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.”
And drones taking infrared pictures to map suspected danger zones may provide a quick and safe way to tell if an area is likely to be hazardous.
“Unexploded 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.
The Bristol researchers are developing the techniques with commercially available drones, affordable for use in less developed parts of the world where landmines cause the greatest humanitarian problems.
The project began in January 2016 and will last for two years. It’s being funded by Find A Better Way, a charity working to find faster, cheaper, and safer methods of landmine detection.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com