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Mine Kafon: the low-tech tumbleweed minesweeper

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November 1, 2012

A dramatic visualization of the Mine Kafon in use

A dramatic visualization of the Mine Kafon in use

Image Gallery (5 images)

An Afghan designer has come up with a novel tumbleweed-esque device to find and detonate mines, a device that has evolved from the wind-powered toys he made as a child. Massoud Hassani's Mine Kafon is made mainly from bamboo and biodegradable plastics, but the simple addition of a GPS chip means the wind-swept spheres can be monitored to reveal the location of mines.

GPS chip aside, this is an extremely low-tech approach to mine detection. Typically the process involves the sweeping of mine fields, either manually with metal detectors, or with specialized vehicles (sometimes remotely controlled). The Mine Kafon, on the other hand, is an array of bamboo sticks with plastic disks at the end. It's light enough to be caught and moved by the wind, but heavy enough that it should trip any mine it passes over. The Mine Kafon will probably be destroyed in the process, but better that than a human life.

Clearly, the Mine Kafon will never be as efficient a means of clearing mines as an intensive sweep using specialist technology. The Mine Kafon is bound to travel the path of least resistance, and so it's not as if you can pop one into a field and expect it to clear the area. But the ability of the Mine Kafon to report on its route, trackable on the web thanks to its GPS chip, means that perhaps, were many of these low cost devices be released at scattered locations, they might chance upon mine fields that were previously undocumented.

The Mine Kafon

There's something artful about the Mine Kafon, though, that is just as valuable. Perhaps it's the poetic symmetry of this peaceful response to the problem of land mines emerging from a nation ravaged by them. The UN puts Afghanistan's land mine count at 10 million, though Hassani insists there are "far, far more." Some of these are Valmara 69s, an anti-personnel mine designed to leap half a meter (or a foot and a half) into the air when tripped before scattering about 1000 steel shards over a lethal radius of 25 meters (82 ft).

"When we were young we learned to make our own toys," Hassani writes at his website. "One of my favourites was a small rolling object that was wind-powered. We used to race against the other kids on the fields around our neighbourhood. There was always a strong wind waving towards the mountains. While we were racing against each other, our toys rolled too fast and too far. Mostly they landed in areas where we couldn't go rescue them because of land mines. I still remember those toys I'd made that we lost and watching them just beyond where we could go." Twenty years on, and Hassani's windswept creations are set to return to Qasaba, Kabul, where he grew up.

The Mine Kafon is set to appear at New York's Museum of Modern Art, and is the subject of a documentary by Callum Cooper that can be viewed below.

Source: Massoud Hassani

About the Author
James Holloway James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.   All articles by James Holloway
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11 Comments

I can't see how a sphere with a limited surface contact patch could make this feasible...a cylinder would make more sense.

John Hemingway Parkes
1st November, 2012 @ 05:58 pm PDT

There's the possibility this thing will incur minimal damage when triggering a mine, especially if it trips slightly to the side of a mine. Being light weight, and therein offering minimal resistance, there is the possibility of the shockwave blowing it aside. Whilst some damage is likely, a complete 'ruinination' might not be a given

Strategic Futurist
1st November, 2012 @ 06:19 pm PDT

there are quotes from Senator Raymond James from the movie 7 Days in May that may help, and yes John, I agree the contact patch from the sphere makes the "safe" walking area very narrow, though a cylinder would not roll well, wars suck in every way

Bill Bennett
1st November, 2012 @ 09:37 pm PDT

alls you need is a big 8 FT DIA concrete cylinder, push it over suspect mine field, and if one is triggered, SFW?

hummer boy
2nd November, 2012 @ 09:22 am PDT

A great idea.

Edgar Castelo
2nd November, 2012 @ 11:23 am PDT

- The Idea as I understand it , is to bring this device to a location where a land mine has been detected/has exploded , and let the winds carry this device repeatedly thru the area, mines would be detonated by contact/tripped by devices weight ! Repeated runs thru an area of this gps enabled device, WOULD NOT clear the area just show where the mine disposal team would not have to check by hand ! - Will it work? time will tell ! -if the disposal teams grow to trust it , this could be a winner ! NOTE!!! this is not made to find/detonate 'dud' bombs

Allen Lumley
2nd November, 2012 @ 11:27 am PDT

Do land mines leave a different heat signature from undisturbed ground?

Do landmines show up on ground penetrating radar/sonar?

Mark Keller
2nd November, 2012 @ 02:23 pm PDT

Mass produce & add aid from any UAV drone to recon area for mines or map mines to aid Mine Kafons.

Must produce 1M alone to clear mines worldwide esp in SE Asia & Africa from civil wars.

Huge demand for.

Or have spheres fire rockets & chain to detonate mines & IEDs.

Or shoot chains over mines to explode using air gun??

Stephen N Russell
2nd November, 2012 @ 05:18 pm PDT

what about dropping massive amounts of inert iron plates weighing a few kilos each on the area of a mine field, most of them would settle on the ground but many would drop with enough force to trigger mines, and get blown to another part of the mine field where they would potentially chain together a bunch of detonations, sure maybe only 1 in 100 would hit more then one landmine, but if you airdrop 10,000 20 kg plates (they don't have to be heavy to generate a lot of force) you'll clear out a huge area.

Of course there's the problem of some of them falling on people, but I doubt anyone would be sticking around a minefield anyway, and the few that do can be temporarily evacuated.

Alex Aricci
6th November, 2012 @ 04:44 am PST

Alex, that approach would for the most part require the plates to land flat vs. landing vertically in the ground. Attach a small "parachute" could help this, but... who goes to pickup the metal plates? And more importantly, if the metal plates didn't land in certain areas it is still unsafe to travel that section so recovering the plates could become impossible.

Nick Thompson
24th November, 2012 @ 05:42 am PST

You guys are missing the point....Massoud took a simple idea he had as a child and created a working solution to minimize the impact that land mines have on our daily lives.

The scope of this minimization is irrelavant.

The number of land mines cleared per tumbler is irrelavant.

He took the time to observe a litte harder than most, and then applied it to a practical problem.

Imagine if everyone in the world did this...

Rough Ventures
16th February, 2013 @ 09:53 am PST
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