Robotics

University of Coimbra developing minesweeping robot

University of Coimbra developi...
The University of Coimbra's minesweeping robot
The University of Coimbra's minesweeping robot
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The University of Coimbra's minesweeping robot
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The University of Coimbra's minesweeping robot
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A team from the Institute of Systems and Robotics at Portugal's University of Coimbra is developing a minesweeping robot to assist in the monumental task of clearing the millions of active land mines around the globe. Currently putting it through a series of field testings, the team is working to optimize the robot to automate the manual, and exceedingly dangerous humanitarian, de-mining effort.

The beginnings of the project date back to 2012 when, as part of the Partnerbot Grant Program which supports advancement in robotics research, Canadian-based Clearpath Robotics provided the institute with a mobile robot base known as the Husky Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

After receiving the robot base, the research team fitted it with navigation and localization sensors, a ground penetration radar and a custom robotic arm with an attached metal detector. These were installed to enable the robot to perform three key tasks: perceive terrain characteristics, navigate across the terrain and to detect and localize land mines.

The first round of field tests in 2013 had to be cut short as a result of complications with the custom robotic arm. The team is currently making adjustments to the machine with a view of conducting further tests in mid-2014.

"Minesweeping is an extremely dangerous and time-intensive process," said Lino Marques, Senior Lecturer at the University of Coimbra and academic liaison for the project. "Robots do not get tired; they can be extremely thorough performing their jobs, and their cost is infinitely smaller than that of a human life. For these reasons, robots are a perfect solution for the minesweeping problem."

If the team's vision is fulfilled, Coimbra's machine will add to the efforts of other de-mining robots already at work, such as the MineWolf and the DIGGER DTR D-3. With an estimated 110 million land mines still lodged in the ground worldwide according to UNICEF, claiming 800 lives each month, any move to help minimize their damage would be a welcome one.

Source: University of Coimbra

4 comments
hkmk23
Very nice, but what is the price? I know human life has no price but would it not be a better idea for universities to work on developing some method of neutralising (making inert) the explosive compounds by means of radio or high or low frequency waves so that the mines could not in fact explode at all?
the.other.will
There is no way of making explosives inert from a distance. The Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization within the US Dept of Defense has, since the occupation of Iraq, explored every method with a likelihood of success. Many nations have had similar but less high profile efforts defeat land mines going back to the beginning of the Cold War.
Stephen N Russell
Same, how much? viable for mass production Must test with US military alone Afganistan, Iraq. & for nations that still have leftover mines from prior wars. For civil & defense uses.
Riaanh
An advantage could be that this vehicle would exert less pressure on the ground than a human, therefore not necessarily setting of the devices. Therefore not needing replacement too often.