App for Detecting Land Mines

Engineering students at Harvard University have developed a cell phone app that, when paired with an ordinary metal detector, can be used effectively to detect land mines. Instead of just beeping when it passes over a metal object, these enhanced metal detectors present the shape of the object found below ground:

Land mines, with their circular construction and trigger pin, have an ovoid signature. The system designed by Jayatilaka and Gajos shows one red dot for every beep of the metal detector. With passes over a buried object, the picture shows an increasingly complete outline of the object’s shape, giving the de-miner an evermore detailed picture of what may be buried there.

“Using only audio signals is a huge source of inefficiency. The operator has to figure out whether it is harmful or not harmful. If they are not completely sure, they have to go down on their hands and knees and excavate every piece of metal as if it were a land mine,” explained Jayatilaka.

The students hope that their invention can be used by cash-strapped de-mining operations around the world.

Link via Popular Science | Photo: Justin Ide/Harvard University

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A really cool development. But what about landmines that contain lots of plastic instead of metal? FYI, there's a new "mindsclearinglandmines" blog on Wordpress, hoping to get creative people thinking about these matters.
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