ESPRIT Humanitarian Demining
The aim of the ESPRIT R&D area on humanitarian demining is to research, develop and validate equipment and practices to improve the speed, efficiency and safety of humanitarian demining operations world-wide.
Current demining operations are very slow and risky. According to a number of studies, an important factor is the limitation of equipment currently used to find antipersonnel landmines in the field. In particular, the most commonly used systems - metal detectors - show very high "false-alarm" rates. A false alarm occurs when the detector triggers an alarm while no mine was present. The false-alarm rates depend on the areas being searched, and can reach levels of 1000 to 1. Every time an alarm is raised, a safe clearance operation must be started, and this time is wasted if the object that triggered the alarm was innocuous. A high false-alarm rate hence multiplies the demining time by a large factor. The focus of work in this programme is to develop mine detection systems with reduced false-alarm rates, while retaining or improving the sensitivity ("detection rate") of the sensors.
All projects in this area are organised in close co-operation between developers of advanced equipment and their users, namely organisations with substantial experience of humanitarian demining operations in the field. The users are involved in every step of the work, from requirements to test and validation. All projects aim at concrete results to be demonstrated in the field.
A first avenue of work is to improve existing sensor systems, for example through the use of advanced signal processing methods, software and hardware. In particular, substantial improvements are expected through the use of low-cost, light-weight high-performance computing systems and algorithms for the processing of ground-penetrating radar data. Results of the work in this direction are expected within a relatively short time, and could be later integrated in multi-sensor systems.
26293 MINEREC proposes to couple high-performance computing and algorithms with a ground-penetrating radar sensor array to improve the detection and false-alarm rates in the recognition of buried anti-personnel mines.
In project 29902 DEMINE , the aim is to develop an advanced low-cost Ground Penetrating Radar. Validation is planned through tests at the JRC in Ispra and in the field by mid-2000.
One of the promising avenues to reduce the false-alarm rates is to combine different sensors reacting to different physical characteristics of buried objects. It is then less likely that an object other than a mine will raise an alarm simultaneously with all sensors. "Multi-sensor data fusion", the combination of the outputs of various sensors, uses advanced signal processing techniques to combine the outputs of various sensors and to reach better detection and false alarm characteristics. Projects in this area integrate "traditional" sensors such as metal detectors, ground-penetrating radar and infrared, and may later add further sensors such as vapour detectors, neutron sensors or nuclear quadrupole resonance.
The set of projects below aim at integrating portable multi-sensor systems. They show a strong co-operation between established suppliers of metal-detection sensors for demining purposes and those developing ground-penetrating radars.
26331 DREAM proposes to develop and demonstrate data fusion algorithms and human-machine interface concepts for the elaboration of a multi-sensor system to detect, localise and classify anti-personnel landmines. The resulting methods, algorithms and architecture will be used in follow-up projects INFIELD and LOTUS.
The objective of 29944 INFIELD is to develop and test a hand-held system with integrated Metal Detector, Ground-Penetration Radar and radiometric sensing. The system will be validated at the JRC in Ispra and field tests will be conducted in Bosnia and an SADC country. Short-term deployment (1999-2000) is targeted.
The aim of 29870 HOPE is to develop a portable system integrating a gradiometer Metal Detector, an advanced Ground-Penetrating Radar and a microwave radiometer. Validation would be performed at the JRC in Ispra and field tests in Angola, Iraq and Bosnia. The prototype is expected to be completed and tested by the end of year 2000.
29895 PICE aims at developing a man-portable system integrating Metal Detector and Ground-Penetrating Radar. Addition of a gas sensor will be explored later. Laboratory tests will be made at the JRC in Ispra and at the FOA Research Centre in Sweden. The system is expected to be deployed in 2003 .
Another avenue to increase the speed and safety of demining processes is to use sensor arrays mounted on a vehicle with a protected cabin. The array can sweep a large area at a time, either in front of the vehicle for road clearance or to the side of the vehicle for area clearance. Performance is further increased by using multi-sensor data fusion. The operator safety is improved by the increased distance to the threat and by the protection offered by the vehicle. It can be further enhanced by using a tele-operated vehicle. The development and operational use of a vehicle-based system raises various technical and operational issues. It is expected that results will be medium-term
26337 GEODE proposes to develop and demonstrate computer architectures and data fusion algorithms for the elaboration of a multi-sensor system to detect, localise and classify anti-personnel landmines. The results will feed into follow-up project LOTUS
29812 LOTUS proposes to further develop sensors based on Metal Detection, Infra-Red and Ground-Penetrating Radar, the necessary multi-sensor fusion and the integration on a tele-controlled vehicle platform. The work will perform integration of the multi-sensor platform on the vehicle for a proof-of-concept operational demonstration.
Most sensors used in mine operations react to many innocuous objects and therefore generate many false alarms. A promising direction is to develop sensors that react on very specific characteristics of a mine, i.e. on the explosive substances. This direction is likely to be longer term.
Proposal 29958 MINESEYE aims at developing a portable system including pulse neutron sensors. Component laboratory tests are planned early 2000, test at the Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra and field tests in Angola in 2001. Deployment of the detector is expected in 2003.