Drones are to detect land mines

Explosives could be located by flying radar in the future

Threats could even track down landmines in the future. © jon11 / thinkstock
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Flying minesweeper: In the future, drones are to detect explosives and land mines. Researchers are working on a drone that uses a special radar to search for mines. From this data, high-resolution images can be created that show the location of the mines to the nearest centimeter. The previously dangerous search for weapons should be easier.

Landmines are a danger that is often invisible to the eye. Whether in the jungles of Cambodia, in the desert of Mali or the Ukraine - the dangerous explosive devices are still hidden in the landscape decades after their release. Because finding them and eliminating them is difficult and risky: Up to now, people with hand-held devices have been forced to venture into a mined area - in impassable, densely vegetated areas, searching with military vehicles is almost impossible.

According to the Landmine Monitor, more than 3, 700 people fell victim to these devious weapons in 2014 - 80 percent of them civilians. In addition, mined areas can not be managed, which makes the reconstruction of former war zones even more difficult. Christian Waldschmidt from the University of Ulm has therefore come up with something new together with colleagues to find mines.

To the centimeter

The research team is developing a drone to search for explosives from the air. It uses radar sensors to scan the potentially mined terrain. "Many mines are buried in the ground, which is why we use a radar with a relatively low frequency, " says Waldschmidt.

The radar waves of the drone penetrate into the soil and create a density profile. From many measurements along the drone trajectory, a high-resolution image is generated from the radar data. Thanks to image processing and pattern recognition using special algorithms, the researchers can then determine the type of object and its centimeter-accurate position. display

At the university, tests are being carried out with the first prototype of the radar device: a rail is intended to simulate the flight movement of the drone. University of Ulm

Staggering drone poses a challenge

At first glance, the idea of ​​mine searching from the air sounds as simple as ingenious. But there are still some challenges: For example, drones are unstable and fluctuate in flight. In order to obtain high-resolution images, however, the trajectory must be known as accurately as possible. Only in this way can it be ensured that even small objects can be focused and thus tracked down.

The researchers are therefore working on optimizing the aircraft as well as the radar technology. They draw on experience gained during the development of sensors for autonomous vehicles or drones in agriculture.

Better tuning is still needed

The researchers have already carried out initial tests with their radar system. In the next step drone and radar technology have to be coordinated. In addition, the scientists want to adapt the system so that the different soil conditions are taken into account in mined areas - from extremely dry to swampy.

The final proof test for the drone should then be test flights in the actual mine areas. To this end, the researchers are planning a trial in the surrounding area of ​​Sarajevo or in Cambodia.

(University of Ulm, 21.10.2016 - HDI)