Find A Better Way announces 1 million challenge winners

December 6th, 2013
Two UK research teams have won a share of £1million funding designed to help Sir Bobby Charlton to reach his goal of ridding the world of landmines.

The winners were unveiled at the Find A Better Way £1 million Awards Dinner held at the Lansdowne Club, Mayfair, London, on 28th November 2013.

A joint bid by University College London and Cranfield University and a project from King's College London, won a share of the fund offered by the charity Find A Better Way in a competition organised with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The Cheshire based charity funds research to promote technology-based solutions to aid humanitarian demining teams across the globe. The charity was founded by Sir Bobby Charlton after he witnessed first-hand the death and destruction caused by landmines during his visits to Bosnia and Cambodia.

In some areas, children dice with death as they search for landmines for as little as a dollar a mine.

The United Nations estimate there are 110 million landmines in former war zones, yet the technology used to find the landmines is roughly the same now as used at the time of the Second World War.

Professor David Delpy, EPSRC Chief Executive said: "I am very pleased that EPSRC has been able to offer its advice and contacts within the scientific and engineering disciplines to promote participation in and review of this competition. I am confident that these talented teams will bring vital innovation to the art of removing landmines, which pose a daily threat to innocent civilians in many parts of the world."

UCL and Cranfield have come together to promote Project DETERMINE, a three year research programme to map the electronic signatures from landmines and to develop a highly mobile ground penetrating radar system capable of searching for landmines across all terrains. The equipment must be reasonably low cost and highly dependable to make it usable in many of the poorer countries of the world. The King's College bid involves building on previous research on the production of a quadrupole resonance system to allow remote detection of landmines in the field with a significant reduction in the risk to demining teams. The King's College research is expected to take 18 months to complete.

"Research being promoted by Find A Better Way is incredibly important," said Professor Hugh Griffiths, Chair of Radio Frequency Sensors at UCL.

"Landmine clearance is a major global problem. Currently, minefields are swept manually using a metal detector and many hours are spent carefully digging out objects many of which turn out to be non-explosive elements discarded on a former battlefield." Post graduate students at UCL will work with their contemporaries at Cranfield, near Swindon, a university which is also home to the UK Royal Military College.

Dr Hugh Morrow, Senior Lecturer in electromagnetic at Cranfield, said: "The partnership with UCL brings together two complimentary sets of expertise. Professor Griffiths pioneered research into biostatic radar at UCL while Cranfield has long experience in research and development of ground penetrating radar.

"We propose to build on previous research to bring forward a new generation of ground penetrating radar which is both fast and very accurate. The plan is to develop algorithms for the detection of landmines which can be embedded in a range of GPR systems so that our technology can be made available to a wide range of demining teams."

At King's College London, Professor Kaspar Althoefer and Dr Panos Kosmas have carried-out previous research into the non-invasive detection and identification of landmines and other explosives with remote probes. This has led to new approaches that can be conducted with less risk to human life.

The main aim of their work is to achieve shorter detection times, higher probability of detection and lower false alarm rates through the use of multiple sensing systems, data fusion and the application of intelligent classification algorithms.

Professor Althoefer said: "Landmines impose devastating societal and economic consequences on affected communities, but significant progress in research, with the UK being an active player, has been made in the last decade.

"For this project for Find A Better Way, we propose to build on our experience of producing a QR system-in-a-suitcase and turn it into a mobile platform capable of being used in a variety of environments as a confirmation sensor for mine clearance efforts."

Provided by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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