Gichd

The application of robotic systems to humanitarian demining has produced a number of prototype systems, but has not so far resulted in any equipment in use in the field. This appears unlikely to change in the near future. Teleoperation has, however, been successfully used for miniflails for vegetation clearance and for other mechanical assets (see the section Mechanically Assisted Demining) and can be expected to be more widely used.

Several projects have proposed the use of autonomous robots or tele-operated platforms to search for landmines. The topics covered include but are not limited to:

  • Minefield conditions, modeling and operational constraints
  • Robotics systems and devices
  • Robot locomotion system design
  • Mine sweeping strategies
  • Human-robot interaction

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There are a number of important technical limitations to the application of robotics in humanitarian demining, quite apart from issues of cost-benefit and human development (the desireability of training local people and supporting the local economy by offering employment as opposed to spending large sums of money on imported robotic equipment). Military demining may not share all of these constraints and may be a more attractive area for robotics; removing humans from battle risks as well as mine hazards, and the very substantially larger budgets available may be key differences.

Perhaps the most important technical limitation for mine detection is that of employing suitable sensors, which may not yet be available. Metal detectors generally have a very high false alarm rate and each false alarm must be investigated before a robotic system can proceed (unless the system is fully blast resistant). If the robotic system has to be withdrawn each time a piece of metal is detected in order to allow a human deminer to check if it is a mine or a false alarm, then the system is very likely to be uncompetitive. Even if a second detection system can be used to confirm the absence or presence of a mine, unless this is fast, cheap and reliable it may offer no advantage over a human deminer. Further limitations include the reliability of advanced technology equipment under the constaraints of a remote mined area in a hot or dusty location, and devising suitable operating procedures which optimise the use of the new system as confidnce in its capacity is built up.

Robotics faces a difficult challenge in improving manual demining - humans are very good at simultaneously manipulating, observing and decision making with limited information and in a situation that has not been previously encountered. The established practice of excavating a suspected target is in some ways efficient as it simlutaneously detects and confirms the target and, if a mine is present, exposes it ready for destruction. A human deminer can be readily reassigned to another task in another area while waiting for the mine to be detonated at the end of the working day.

Buried mine detection is only one of many tasks that comprise humanitarian demining and other tasks may be more suitable for the application of robotics, in particular vegetation clearance.


Record updated on : 13 March 2014
Record id : 18

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