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Drones could be used as a remote-sensing measure to detect dangerous landmines. It is estimated that there are at least 100 million military munitions and explosives of concern devices in the world, of various size, shape and composition. Millions of these are surface plastic landmines with low-pressure triggers, such as the mass-produced Soviet PFM-1 “butterfly” landmine, nicknamed for their small size and butterfly-like shape.
These mines are extremely difficult to locate and clear due to their small size, low trigger mass and, most significantly, a design that mostly excluded metal components, making these devices virtually invisible to metal detectors. Critically, these features have earned it notoriety as “the toy mine,” due to a high casualty rate among small children who find these devices while playing and who are the primary victims of the PFM-1 in post-conflict nations, like Afghanistan.
Researchers at Binghamton University, State University at New York, have developed a method that allows highly accurate detection of “butterfly” landmines from low-cost commercial drones. According to phys.org, they used mounted infrared cameras to remotely map the dynamic thermal conditions of the surface and recorded unique thermal signatures associated with the plastic casings of the mines. During an early-morning experiment, they found that the mines heated up at a much-greater rate than surrounding rocks, and they were able to identify the mines by their shape and apparent thermal signature.
Results indicate that this methodology holds considerable potential to rapidly identify the presence of surface plastic MECs during early-morning hours, when these devices become thermal anomalies relative to surrounding geology.