Drones

Infrared-packin' drones used to hunt butterfly landmines

Infrared-packin' drones used t...
The PFM-1's most common victims are small children, who mistake the unusually-shaped mine for a toy
The PFM-1's most common victims are small children, who mistake the unusually-shaped mine for a toy
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The PFM-1's most common victims are small children, who mistake the unusually-shaped mine for a toy
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The PFM-1's most common victims are small children, who mistake the unusually-shaped mine for a toy

While landmines in general are pretty awful, the PFM-1 "butterfly" mine is particularly nasty. Because of its small size and mainly plastic construction, the butterfly-shaped device is notoriously difficult to find using metal detectors or other common methods. Now, however, it turns out that drones can be used to locate the things.

Led by professors Alex Nikulin and Timothy de Smet, a team from New York's Binghamton University mounted infrared cameras on inexpensive consumer drones, and then used the aircraft to conduct early-morning flights over an area in which PFM-1's had been surface-deployed (the mines are frequently dropped from the air, as opposed to being buried).

It was found that because the mines conducted heat from the rising sun much more quickly than the surrounding rocks did, they produced distinct thermal signatures that were easily picked up by the drones' cameras. This allowed the mines to be detected with a high degree of accuracy.

The scientists are now refining the technology, and hope to ultimately develop a fully autonomous multi-drone system that would require little human input. Once the mines were located, perhaps they could be detonated by mine-destroying drones such as the SpectroDrone or the Mine Kafon Drone.

"We believe our method holds great potential for eventual wide-spread use in post-conflict countries, as it increases detection accuracy and allows for rapid wide-area assessment without the need for an operator to come into contact, or even proximity of the minefield," says Nikulin. "Critically, once further developed, this methodology can greatly reduce both costs and labor required for mine clearing operations across post-conflict regions."

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal The Leading Edge.

Source: Binghamton University via EurekAlert

7 comments
Mr T
Or maybe the scumbags who manufacture these mines could be held to account. But killing is big business, and we can't start bringing ethics into that, can we, the $ is king after all...
CAVUMark
I wouldn't like it if my Northrup stock declined.
paul314
Perhaps the mine manufacturers and the people who give to orders to scatter them could also clear them. By whatever means.
Brian M
The trouble with landmines, of any type, is that they are so effective in area denial. Its why defensive counties like Finland and Ukraine want (or have withdrawn?) from the protocol as they want to protect from armed invasion. The only way to make their use less attractive to defenders is to render them useless as a deterrent. So devices like this that quickly, safely and cheapy detect them are particularly welcome, plus of course in clean up operations.
Doug Nutter
I love the technology. I do question publicizing it though because now the mine manufacturers can take steps to blend the heat signature into the landscape. I am 75 and would love to take an immortality pill just to see the progress that mankind takes. The downside is that I might see the destruction of our civilization as we know it.
ljaques
New mine detection method? Excellent! (And then I'm awed by the sweet tenderness showed toward the mine manufacturers, like "throw 'em on the mines", eh, Paul?) Mines are really bad news, so let's keep cleaning up those which are out there and penalizing governments (or tribal leaders) who continue to use them.
Ralf Biernacki
@CAVUMark: Hate to blow your bubble, but the text on the mine is in cyrillic. . . So maybe not Northrop, after all.