The creators of a drone that can autonomously map, detect, and detonate land mines say their technology could potentially clear the world of these deadly devices in less than 10 years' time. It's an ambitious goal, but one well worth pursuing. Worldwide, there are thought to be some 100 million land mines, many of which are leftover from conflicts long since finished. Every year these mines kill thousands of people, the vast majority of which are innocent civilians. The Mine Kafon Drone (MKD) wants to help change this.
The MKD is designed to make clearing land mines easier, cheaper, and safer. The drone has six rotors and a trio of different attachments. The first is used to map the desired area, while the second, a metal detector, is used to detect mines, flagging them with GPS markers. After this, the drone returns to its operator and swaps its metal detector for a robot arm, which is used to place small detonators the size of tennis balls over the mines' locations. The drone then retreats to safety and the mines are detonated.
MKD's designers claim that this method is up to 20 times faster than traditional de-mining techniques, and up to 200 times cheaper. The team, led by designer Massoud Hassani, previously created the Mine Kafon — a cheap, disposable wind-blown device that looks like a tumbleweed made out of toilet plunger, that rolls around fields, blowing up mines as it goes. Hassani himself knows from experience the damage these devices can do: he grew up in northern Kabul in Afghanistan, a country which is riven with land mines, with some 10 million concentrated in an area of around 500 square kilometers.
The creators of the drone want to raise €70,000 for further testing
Hassan is looking to raise funds for the drone on Kickstarter, and has launched a campaign today with a target of €70,000 in funding. The money will be used to improve the design of the MKD, develop base stations, test the drone in different environments, and train pilots. Rewards include postcards of sponsored locations which backers' money will help clear of mines, as well as miniature models of the wind-blown Mine Kafon.
The designers of the MKD admit that using a drone for such sensitive work creates its own problems. These include the difficulty of detecting mines that have been buried for decades, with a drone that has to hover around four centimeters above the ground. It can also be tricky to rely on GPS (which has an accuracy of around four meters) for precise geolocation, and the MKD team wants to improve this using triangulation from external antennas. Even with these challenges though, if the MKD can live up to its creators' claims, it could help change — and save — lives around the world.