August 31, 2007 There is perhaps no graver reminder of the indiscriminate cruelty of modern warfare than the landmine. In both active and silenced battlefields all over the world, it's estimated that over 100 million landmines remain concealed, preventing farming and the establishment of infrastructure, and slaughtering soldiers and civilians alike. While anti landmine campaigners strive to reduce the continuing production of landmines, (ten million are made annually), other researchers are attempting to improve landmine detection and elimination technology. To this end, the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands is developing a radar system that they hope will make the whole process safer, and cheaper.
The problem with current landmine removal methods is that the cost of safely eliminating just one can be up to $2000. For comparison, the creation of a landmine is sometimes as cheap as one dollar. The researchers at Delft believe that the answer doesn’t lie in striving to make sophisticated technologies cheaper, as is the case with multi-hyper spectral sensors, passive millimeter wave detectors, or charged particle detection, but rather in making cheap, existing technology more sophisticated. Delft has selected the radar because, unlike metal detectors or human controlled probing, radar is better able to distinguish landmines from other artifacts, while keeping people at a safer distance.
Their ultra-wideband radar prototype has proven successful in test environments. Now the challenge is to make it consistent enough to use in the field, by reducing the amount of false alarms.
It’s possible that the only way to "refine" the cruelty of landmines is to make the means by which they are discovered and defused so cheap and easy that it is simply not worth laying them any more.