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Robotics The Military

Minesweepers Robotic Competition Aims For a Landmine-Free World 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the sweep-and-clear dept.
Hallie Siegel (2973169) writes in with news of a robotic competition with some serious goals. "Dr. Alaa Khamis writes: 'Detection and removal of antipersonnel landmines is, at present, a serious problem of political, economical, environmental and humanitarian dimensions in many countries across the world. It is estimated that there are 110 million landmines in the ground right now; one for every 52 inhabitants on the planet. These mines kill or maim more than 5,000 people annually. If demining efforts remain about the same as they are now, and no new mines are laid, it will still take 1100 years to get rid of all the world's active land mines because current conventional methods of removal are very slow, inefficient, dangerous and costly. Robotic systems can provide efficient, reliable, adaptive and cost effective solutions for the problem of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination. Minesweepers: Towards a Landmine-free World was initiated in 2012 as the first international outdoor robotic competition on humanitarian demining by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society – Egypt Chapter, which won the Chapter of the Year Award in IEEE Region 8 that year. It aims to raise public awareness of the seriousness of landmines and UXO contamination and the role of science and technology in addressing these; it also aims to foster robotics research in the area of humanitarian demining by motivating professors, engineers and students to work on innovative solutions for this serious problem."
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Minesweepers Robotic Competition Aims For a Landmine-Free World

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  • It is estimated that there are 110 million landmines in the ground right now; one for every 52 inhabitants on the planet.

    52 (people/mine) * 110 million (mines) = 5.72 billion people. Unless there's been a recent disaster that killed off more than a billion people that I didn't hear about, I think their math's a little off.

    • Unless there's been a recent disaster that killed off more than a billion people that I didn't hear about,

      . . . like, them all stepping on landmines . . . ?

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      A billion of us don't have landmines assigned to us.

      Unfortunately, we don't know which billion.

      He's hoping!

      • ...A billion of us don't have landmines assigned to us yet...

        But they are busy producing and planting them as fast as possible. And the new models are best, the way they leap 3 ft into the air, then send a bunch of shrapnel in a circular horizontal plane. Delightful.

    • 203 years from now when there are no more fossil fuels and the sky is scorched black from pollution, these landmines will be the sole source of energy for the remaining humans --- err Morlocks --- an each one will be treasured for the precious contents.

      It is our gift to future generations to package these valuable energy resources into tidy metal containers that we so thoughtfully buried for the benefit of future generations.
  • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Monday April 28, 2014 @06:23PM (#46863681)
    so do they plan to mail out kits with land mines for us to test with ?
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      so do they plan to mail out kits with land mines for us to test with ?

      They do actually have test landmines that are basically the primer and detonator with no explosive. Trigger them and they "blow up" in that they release a burst of compressed air

      When buried in a test sandpit, the "explosions" from them kick up a fair bit of sand, making it easy to see when they've been detonated. Depending on the minesweeper design, this may or may not be a desirable outcome (some designs intentionally trigger the landmi

    • by Toad-san (64810)

      Actually they're readily available, even in civilian circles:

      http://www.inertproducts.com/i... [inertproducts.com]

      The above site is HUGELY overpriced, of course; the mine manufacturers could put out inert mines very cheaply if they wished. Most armed forces already have them, used for mine warfare training all the time.

      But there may be other and better solutions. Not necessarily the goats in another comment, but maybe things like honeybees:

      http://www.wired.co.uk/news/ar... [wired.co.uk]

  • That's not a lot. According to wolframalpha, 58 million people die every year. Given this percentage, is minesweeping even cost-effective, or is it more of a charity pump/drain?

    • Given 5000 deaths per year and 110 million mines, we'd be better off ignoring them. Most of the mines would decay into uselessness long before they killed someone (at the current death rate, in a century, 99% of the mines will not have been stepped on, and that's ignoring the fact that the mines won't last a century.).
      • Given 5000 deaths per year and 110 million mines, we'd be better off ignoring them. Most of the mines would decay into uselessness long before they killed someone (at the current death rate, in a century, 99% of the mines will not have been stepped on, and that's ignoring the fact that the mines won't last a century.).

        Except that developing the tech to clear existing mine fields efficiently may help when some idiot in the future lays a bunch of new mines. Ideally developing the tech would make traditional mines so ineffective no one would bother using them, but such a notion may be a bit optimistic. However expecting treaties banning mines to end the use of mines may be even more optimistic.

        Develop the tech, it will probably have numerous other uses too.

        • The real problem is that, knowing that that field over there is a minefield, sweeping it with 99% efficiency means it is still completely unsafe for anyone to walk across.

          The only way you can clear a minefield and guarantee that the field is safe is to know exactly how many mines are in the area, and search till you find them all. Which means accepting the cost in both money and lives to keep going till you've ticked off each mine.

          Note that knowing the exact number of mines in an area is pretty much impo

          • by Anonymous Coward

            The real problem is that, knowing that that field over there is a minefield, sweeping it with 99% efficiency means it is still completely unsafe for anyone to walk across.

            With that definition of unsafe you should move into a cave since you can never be completely safe from meteorites.

            This is very comparable to the situation Germany is in. It still has hundreds of thousands of undetonated bombs that were dropped during WWII around. It kills about ten construction workers every year.
            They are never going to be completely sure that all the bombs are gone but that doesn't mean that it isn't worthwhile to try to detect and get rid of the bombs.

            • by fractoid (1076465)
              Dude, if you put 100 mines on a football pitch and then removed 99 of them, I would not play on that football pitch. And I am not what you'd typically call risk-averse.
          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            The only way you can clear a minefield and guarantee that the field is safe is to know exactly how many mines are in the area, and search till you find them all. Which means accepting the cost in both money and lives to keep going till you've ticked off each mine.

            The answer is to make the nation that placed the mines responsible for clearing the mines. Implementing this is an exercise for all nations which give a fuck about human life.

            • The answer is to make the nation that placed the mines responsible for clearing the mines.

              That'll go real well...

              So, country X invades your country. You drive them back, and make peace. Then you invite them back to clear the minefields they laid in the war. And they decide to stay (and lay more mines)....

              Or hasn't anyone ever explained that most people don't like the idea of large numbers of enemy troops in their country, even for an ostensibly good reason?

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Or hasn't anyone ever explained that most people don't like the idea of large numbers of enemy troops in their country, even for an ostensibly good reason?

                You don't let them have arms or uniforms.

                And soon, they won't have legs.

                Personally, I favor forcing them to use random citizens.

                Unfortunately, that means I'd be out sweeping the USA's mines.

      • by careysub (976506)

        Given 5000 deaths per year and 110 million mines, we'd be better off ignoring them. Most of the mines would decay into uselessness long before they killed someone (at the current death rate, in a century, 99% of the mines will not have been stepped on, and that's ignoring the fact that the mines won't last a century.).

        You sure about how long mines will (not) last?

        A fair number are modern mines consisting of sealed plastic cases and modern military explosives that are stable and waterproof. These could easily last more than a century, particularly in a dry climate like Somalia (which happens to be the most heavily mined country). In fact it is not clear why these mines would ever stop working.

        • by careysub (976506)

          Oops - editing era (accidental list deletion). That should read: "These could easily last more than a century, particularly in a dry climate like Somalia, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Angola, Iran and Egypt (which happens to be the most heavily mined country)."

          • by jabuzz (182671)

            Dry climate has nothing to do with it. Unexploded ordnance from WWI on the former western front

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I... [wikipedia.org]

            We are talking hundreds of tonnes of the stuff a year, and I would guess exceeds the total tonnage of landmines every few years, and that is just the stuff being dug up.

          • Oops - editing era (accidental list deletion).

            Hmm, seems you have an editing error in your "editing era"....

        • by AK Marc (707885)
          I'd expect a mine like you describe would stop working for trigger reasons. The trigger has to work, no matter how stable and waterproof the payload, if the trigger doesn't work, no boom.

          If I were tasked with clearing mines, I'd use large masers to sweep the ground and spoil or detonate any ordinance in the ground. How powerful are mines? Why wouldn't a road roller be able to find them by detonating them, while remaining safe to operate and reusable? Seems odd to me that a "small" anti-personnel mine w
          • by dave420 (699308)
            That's fine for places in which a 23-ton vehicle can drive, and if your guess that rolling over a landmine won't destroy the vehicle enough to cause a 23-ton wreck. For other places, that is clearly not an option.
          • by Talderas (1212466)

            Vehicles are only useful as clearers where anti-personnel mines are used. If you even suspect that anti-vehicular mines are present then you can't use vehicles safely.

          • by fractoid (1076465)
            I never understood this either, and I'd like to know the answer. Given your options are (a) send a human being in to try and carefully remove each mine, risking getting blown up in the process, or (b) just send in some hardened version of this thing [wikimedia.org], you'd think (b) would be the better option.
          • Why wouldn't a road roller be able to find them by detonating them, while remaining safe to operate and reusable? Seems odd to me that a "small" anti-personnel mine would destroy a 50,000 lb armored steamroller.

            What you're describing was developed as a mine-clearance variant of the Sherman tank in WW2. Actually, several variants (one big roller, several smaller rollers, etc).

            It's useful, but too easy to counter. Set one mine in twenty to delayed detonation, and you lose a lot of mine clearance vehicles.

            • by AK Marc (707885)
              Easy to counter if you are trying to. It seems many of the mines in the ground are old. I expect they didn't do that. Also, the means of delaying a detonation add delicateness. Why cripple your mines with delicate triggers?
    • by mythosaz (572040)

      As best I can tell, 0.00862% is a rounding error.

      It's almost exactly 100x less than the rate that women die as a complication of pregnancy (0.89%) -- a number that basic 3rd world maternal care could probably cut in half. [I get that *delivering* said care is a challenge, and infrastructure sucks, but these challenges exist in land mine clearing parts of the world as well.]

      Heck. 10x as many people die from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C... [wikipedia.org]

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @06:59PM (#46863941)

      You want to bring up cost effective? Well fuck you, economics should have ZERO argument in this issue. Clean the fucking things up.

      It's called Doing the Right goddamn thing.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        There is limited available funds to save peoples lives with, even if everyone on the planet devoted all their effort to helping solve problems, there is still a finite amount of resources available. With that in mind, there are far more dangerous things in the world that kill far more people in a year, solving those problems should come first.

        Prioritizing doesn't mean you do nothing, it means you work on the more important problems first.

        • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

          There is limited available funds to save peoples lives with, even if everyone on the planet devoted all their effort to helping solve problems, there is still a finite amount of resources available. With that in mind, there are far more dangerous things in the world that kill far more people in a year, solving those problems should come first.

          Prioritizing doesn't mean you do nothing, it means you work on the more important problems first.

          I suggest that you, with your full understanding of the economics involved, walk through minefields. Because you are an immoral fuck, and you wouldn't do it anyhow, because you are also an immoral coward.

          We see your sort of amoral arguments with the death penalty, when people like you speak of an "acceptable" number of false executions. Sounds good to you, because of the numbers? Well sparky, we cannot claim that without saying that we are accepting of people getting away with miurder and capital crime

          • by AK Marc (707885)

            I suggest that you, with your full understanding of the economics involved, walk through minefields. Because you are an immoral fuck, and you wouldn't do it anyhow, because you are also an immoral coward.

            I do not walk through minefields, nor crossing Interstates on foot. Yes, those who laid the mines should be responsible for removing them, but if we are going to make it a global charity problem, you'd save more lives per dollar buying helicopters for patient transfers/ambulance service than wasting millions cleaning up old ordinance. Why do you want to condem people to die from poor emergency response times by blocking funding for services? Oh, that's right, your pet project is mines, and if the numbers

            • by dave420 (699308)
              So because you assume the locals "allowed" the mines to be laid, and even "cheered" when doing so, they should have their farmland kept unusable, or engage in a farming practice which can (to the tune of hundreds of people a year) prove lethal. Because many of the mines in North Africa, for example, are from WWII (and before the current crop of locals even existed, let alone allowed anyone to do anything and cheering over it), your comments seem either ridiculously ignorant, or insanely asshatish. Fences
              • by AK Marc (707885)

                So because you assume the locals "allowed" the mines to be laid, and even "cheered" when doing so, they should have their farmland kept unusable, or engage in a farming practice which can (to the tune of hundreds of people a year) prove lethal.

                So, because you don't like them, we should spend billions saving a few hundred per year, when the same money could save 100x as many people when applied elsewhere? What a waste of human life you are advocating. Why are you so heartless?

      • You want to bring up cost effective? Well fuck you, economics should have ZERO argument in this issue. Clean the fucking things up.

        It's called Doing the Right goddamn thing.

        Whose responsibility is it to clean them up? Everybody's? If so, then why is it the "Right" thing to expend my resources on this problem rather than in one of any number of other ways that will have a greater impact?

      • A lot of things need cleaning up. Perspective helps decides which one needs more attention. Doing the right thing is right, selecting which of the right things you need to do first, is the problem.

      • For the ethically challenged (I'm talking to you, Mr. "5000 annually") here's are two maps.

        This shows the number of casualties as as per country as a circular area [the-monitor.org].

        This shows maps the casualties to the relative size of the country [viewsoftheworld.net]. This makes it hard to figure out exactly which country is hurting the most, but it dramatically shows how bad some places have it compared to the rest of the world. Anyone who is not shocked by seeing this is a psychopathic personality type.

        • by AK Marc (707885)

          . Anyone who is not shocked by seeing this is a psychopathic personality type.

          So everyone working on disarming mines would already be familiar with this, and thus not "shocked", and therefore, anyone clearing mines is a psychopath. I'm not sure your conclusion works. I think anyone who thinks all others with differing opinions are psychopaths are psychopaths.

        • SO, who knew I was a psychopath just because I'd already seen one of your maps, and the other one was basically a big blob of color that made little to no sense?

          Hint to people who make these distorted maps to emphasize their ideas: if the map is too distorted, noone can even read it without major effort, which most people won't make....

      • Goats. The solution generally is to herd goats and sheep and let them detonate the things.
      • You want to bring up cost effective? Well fuck you, economics should have ZERO argument in this issue. Clean the fucking things up.

        So, have you donated your entire income to cleaning up the problem? If not, why not? After all, it's Doing the Right goddamn thing.

        Oh, when you said economics should have ZERO argument, you meant OTHER PEOPLE'S economics....

      • by fractoid (1076465)
        If it costs $2000 to do one Right Thing (remove a land mine) and it costs $20 to do another Right Thing (say, cataract surgery to save someone's sight) then economics absolutely has a place in this issue. If you have resources then obviously do both, but if your resources are limited then you apply them to greatest effect.
    • by careysub (976506)

      You are not considering the fact that the mines render huge areas essentially unusable due to the risk of getting killed or maimed. This is an enormous continuing cost burden on the affected nations This area denial effect is the reason the mines were put there in the first place!

      • Yes, and unless you can provide a 100% guarantee that the mines have been cleared, the area will still be unusable.

        And the only way you can test that an area is 100% clear is to tell people to use it, and listen for the booms....

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      Well for one, building a minesweeping robot is a lot more interesting than building one that tells you to stop eating that hamburger.
    • by denzacar (181829) on Monday April 28, 2014 @10:17PM (#46864953) Journal

      It's not the deaths.
      It's not even the limbs lost.
      It's the fact that some unknown area of land is completely unusable and unsafe. And I mean COMPLETELY.
      Maybe you can look at it from a distance.
      If you're looking for a "cost-effective" reason and saving couple of thousand lives per year is just not enough of a reason for you.

      Here in Bosnia we have lots of mines and unexploded ordnance laying around thanks to that lovely party we had back in the '90s.
      We also have plenty of forest fires each summer.

      Now, besides the fact that we are severely lacking in the firefighting department (BOTH of our military helicopters used for firefighting tend to use up all the FUEL that the army has in first two days; trucks only go where there are roads, and many trucks are vintage '60s models repaired with such ingenious inventions as welding a crowbar onto a gearshift cause the original got torn off long ago) - places where fires tend to burn also tend to be littered with mines.
      Or not. Nobody knows for sure.

      Imagine trying to put out a forest fire with a backpack of water and a broom.
      Now imagine that forest also firing off a bullet or two, from time to time, in a random direction.
      Or a mortar shell exploding. Or the ground being covered in mines.
      You know? Fun!

      So what happens? Forests burn.
      Until they burn close enough to be put out, or help comes from the neighbors in surrounding countries, or it rains.
      Thing is, if they are burning close enough - that's cause they are close enough to where people live.

      That's fires...
      Guess what happens when rains start? You got it!
      Landslides. Now you (maybe) have mines and UXOs where there were none just a weekend ago.
      Who the fuck knows, right?
      It's been 20+ years since the start of the war.

      The best part?
      Finding out that MAYBE there were mines couple of hundred meters from where you used to go to work, and right in the yard of a place where you're supposed to go to work.
      A decade after the war ended. In the middle of a populated, urban, area. Right next to a main road.
      Maybe there are mines there. Nobody knows anymore.

      Then again, not so long ago several hundred rounds of ammunition and couple of grenades were found inside a locked room in the main building of the Presidency.
      Nobody opened that door for a decade. Nobody NEEDED to open it for a decade.

    • Except land mine areas are concentrated, and do not always cause death. Take a trip to Cambodia, and walk down the street in Phnomh Penh. Every few block you'll see people missing limbs because they stepped on a landmine. If you have even a bit of a human heart, you'll understand that landmines as a method to engage in war are horrific. (Although you could argue ALL of war is horrific, land mines particularly so). They persist many years after the conflict is over, mainly injure the indigenous populati

  • by PmanAce (1679902) on Monday April 28, 2014 @06:37PM (#46863783) Homepage
    At first I thought someone was going to write a PC virus to uninstall all minesweeper games from every version of windows on the planet. Thank god!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Problem is that there isn't any cheap way to demine. Yes, there are clever methods like teaching rats to sniff out mines, but usually the areas where there are mine or UXO problems tend to be the places which can least afford to do this.

    Anything in this front is a good thing.

  • .. and here I thought this about some AI contest used to test which algorithms best "solve" minesweeper. :-/

  • Goats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 28, 2014 @07:20PM (#46864071)

    Use Goats.See, goats wander around eating things. Goatset off mines. This actually happens on an uninhabited Hawaiian island (unintentionally).

  • Perhaps the one that laid mines could financially help the effort?
  • Drones surveying with IR, metal detector and possibly ground penetrating radar could sweep an area defined by GPS and produce a map of suspect spots.
    Such a setup would be so useful for general surveying/archaeology/treasure hunting it must already exist? A quick search shows a few results for agricultural surveys.
    I don't know if when they are 'deployed' whether there are regular patterns that could be used for machine recognition? Use a pen of goats or heavily armoured versions of Big Dog to detonate. O

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