The manufacture, dissemination and use of anti-personnel mines were effectively banned in the late 1990s when 133 nations signed the Ottawa Treaty. But despite that international agreement, an estimated 100 million mines remain buried beneath former war zones where they kill or maim an average of 10 people per day. Using conventional methods -- whether that involves detector animals, human deminers or armored vehicles -- we'd need more than millennium to deactivate them all. The creators of this mine-hunting UAV, however, figure they can get it done in a little over a decade.
It's called the Mine Kafon Drone (MKD) and its creators have just launched a Kickstarter campaign for its production. The MKD is a hexcopter with three interchangeable arms: a high resolution camera, a metal detector and a robotic arm. The drone first flies over the field and uses its camera to both create a 3D aerial map and mark potentially dangerous areas with GPS waypoints. Then, using its metal detector attachment, the MKD rescans the field looking for actual mines. It uses the 3D map it made in the previous step to keep the detector just 4 cm from the ground as it flies by. Any mines that it finds are geotagged for removal. To actually do that, the MKD attaches its gripper arm to drop a small, timed detonator atop the mine. Once the drone is safely out of range, the detonator explodes, setting off the mine underneath. Overall, the MKD's creators estimate that this process can clear a minefield up to 20 times faster -- and for 200 times less cost -- than conventional methods.
The MKD team is trying to raise €90,000 to get the project going. A €17 donation will allow you to sponsor 7,500 square meter of mine field mapping. €75 earns you a miniature replica of the drone. €5,000 will get you an MKD of your very own, complete with robo-arm. That's not a bad deal given that the final version of the drone is expected to retail for 4 times that amount -- a whopping €20,000. Should the campaign reach its funding goal, MKDs could begin demining the world's war zones as early as next June.