Engineer creating more sensitive, safer landmine detectors

Oct 30, 2008

Long after a conflict, landmines remain buried underground unless someone can locate and detonate them. According to the United Nations (UN), there are more than 100 million landmines buried in 68 countries around the world. The UN estimates that more than 2,000 people are killed or injured by landmine explosions each month. A University of Missouri engineer is working to enhance the accuracy of a landmine radar system while minimizing the number of false alarms it produces.

In a landmine radar system, ground-penetrating radar scans the surface for underground objects. Besides sensing landmines, the radar also has undesirable responses from clutter objects, such as scrap metal debris, plant roots and rocks. Dominic Ho, the Dowell Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering in the MU College of Engineering, is working with Army employees and private defense contractors to enhance the system, and distinguish between true positive signals that are from landmines and false positive signals that are from clutter objects and can be ignored safely.

"The fewer false positives there are, the faster we can clear a mine-infected area," Ho said. "Each time there is a false positive, the military wastes time and money to investigate the positive signal. Our goal is to keep the rate of detection high, but reduce the number of false triggers."

Ho studies and compares how signals are reflected from landmines and clutter objects that produce false signals. He differentiates the signals and then develops radar signature patterns that can identify an underground object. Ho's goal is to create consistent radar signature patterns for landmines so the detector will be able to discriminate between landmines and clutter objects. However, landmines can vary in shape and material making it a challenge to create consistent signature patterns. For example, landmines can be circular or square and made of plastic or metal. Plastic landmines are more of a challenge because they are light and do not create a strong signal, Ho said.

Ho has researched landmine detection for nearly 10 years. His recent grant will fund research of a detector that is mounted on a vehicle-based platform. Previously, Ho researched and helped enhance a hand-held detection device that is currently being used in Iraq and Afghanistan. His research, along with advancements in radar technology, has contributed to a reduction of false alarms from a rate of 100 per 5,000 square meters five years ago to the current rate of less than four per 5,000 square meters.

"We are chasing a moving target," Ho said. "People are still creating landmines. It's very important that we continue to refine our techniques and improve our detection methods."

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Explore further: New ultrasound device may add in detecting risk for heart attack, stroke

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ground-breaking antilandmine radar

Aug 23, 2007

Researchers in The Netherlands are developing a radar system that might one day see through solid earth and could be used to clear conflict zones of landmines, safely and at low cost. Writing in Inderscience's Journal of ...

Recommended for you

A smart prosthetic knee with in-vivo diagnoses

Apr 22, 2014

The task was to develop intelligent prosthetic joints that, via sensors, are capable of detecting early failure long before a patient suffers. EPFL researchers have taken up the challenge.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ThomasS
not rated yet Oct 31, 2008
Left over landmines are a real tragedy. This research is very important. Now, can the US please sign the anti-personnel mining treaty?

More news stories

Google+ boss leaving the company

The executive credited with bringing the Google+ social network to life is leaving the Internet colossus after playing a key role there for nearly eight years.

Facebook woos journalists with 'FB Newswire'

Facebook launched Thursday FB Newswire, billed as an online trove of real-time information for journalists and newsrooms to mine while reporting on events or crafting stories.

Genetic legacy of rare dwarf trees is widespread

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have found genetic evidence that one of Britain's native tree species, the dwarf birch found in the Scottish Highlands, was once common in England.