Warlike conflicts often have long-term consequences for the countries concerned. There are millions of landmines in Vietnam and Cambodia as well as in the Balkans and Afghanistan. For the population, this is a constant source of danger. The big problem: As a rule, it is not known exactly where the individual mines were deposited. The classic approach to demining is therefore to identify them with the help of metal detectors targeted and harmless. However, this does not work for the butterfly mines that are usually thrown out of the air because they mostly consist of plastic. Therefore, US researchers have now developed a technique to detect the dangerous objects using drones.
Controlled explosions can eliminate the danger
For this purpose, the flying objects were equipped with an extremely sensitive infrared camera, which is able to detect heat differences. The trick: When the sun rises in the morning, the liquid explosives contained in the mine heat up faster than the surrounding stones and the individual mines become visible. Then clearing commandos can move in and deliberately render the dangerous objects harmless – for example, by a controlled demolition. So far, however, the approach has not yet been tested in the areas actually affected, but only in a field trial in the United States. Also, no real explosive was used, but a chemically similar substance. Nevertheless, the researchers are confident that their approach will prove practical.
There are still millions of butterfly mines active in Afghanistan
Currently, the images taken by the infrared camera must also be evaluated by a human helper. Perspectively, this work could also be adopted by an algorithm. Help in the fight against landmines is urgently needed in any case. For example, it is estimated that several million butterfly mines are still active in Afghanistan alone. According to official statistics, only 14,629 landmines were actually defused last year. So it’s a multi-generation project. However, the approach now developed by the researchers also does not work everywhere: In Vietnam, for example, the land mines are often overgrown with plants – and therefore can not be detected by the camera.