After two years of large-scale war, Ukraine has become the mostly contaminated by landmines country in the world. According to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, about a third of the territory needs to be inspected, and the area of contaminated agricultural fields is at least 8 million hectares.
Given this scale and the density of explosive ordnance in the fields, demining can take decades and cost much more than the current annual budget of the entire country. Every year that this problem is not resolved costs dozens of lives and the broken destinies of thousands of families who cannot return to their homes.
Unfortunately, the existing demining tools and standards are powerless - they will not help solve a problem of this magnitude in an adequate timeframe. For example, the productivity of a manual survey of the territory is 40-120 m2 per day per person, or 0.01 hectare. A mechanical demining machine can cover an average of 0.5 hectares per day, but the cost of such a machine exceeds 700 thousand euros, so it is impossible to scale this process quickly. In addition, mechanical demining without prior reconnaissance will quickly destroy the machines and make the soil unusable due to significant contamination with debris and chemicals.
Realizing the scale of the problem, in the summer of 2022, the Postup Foundation began working on researching the latest systems for detecting landmines and UXO. Oddly enough, there are already a number of technologies in the world that can speed up the search for UXO, but most of them are at an early stage of development and are used only experimentally. We decided to do our best to create a system to find landmines regardless of the conditions of their laying. Using a magnetometer, we can see metal-containing mines in dense grass, buried underground, and even at the bottom of water reservoirs under appropriate conditions.
Initially, we created a system based on completely off-the-shelf solutions: a Pixhawk-based drone created by Ukrainian volunteers and a German-made magnetometer. We weren't impressed with the results: due to the drone's significant background, all small metal objects were lost in the noise. Then we decided to do something different: we used extender equipment to increase the distance between the drone and the magnetometer and rented a much larger agrodrone that could lift it all. The results exceeded our expectations. After the first tests, we realized that the background from the system dropped from 40 nT to 2 nT, which allowed us to impress the State Emergency Service representatives with the ability to detect TM-62 mines even at a depth of 50 cm underground!
Working on a real minefield was a cold shower for us. Despite the sensitive system, we realized that a good picture is not enough to really help the deminers in their work. This was followed by 9 months of hard work to improve the functionality of the equipment, study and develop the software, and learn more about the best international practices. Now we have started a new stage and are working on rolling out the system in real conditions and determining its effectiveness at the training grounds of mine action operators.
Seeking support for mine detection system development
System development and testing are two of the most thankless processes in the development of an initiative. In both cases, the costs are enormous, but there is no way to finance them at the expense of the customer. Since these stages are very important for us now, we will be glad to receive any support from you and promise to direct it to useful purposes for the project.
Partnership to test mine detection system
Feedback is also very important to us. It is impossible to test the system on a real minefield and understand its effectiveness without determining how many mines were actually lying in the area. Realizing the risks and responsibilities of this work, we are looking for partners who would be willing to involve us in the demining process that is actually taking place. As a result, the mine action team could receive a multilayered map to improve situational awareness, and we could better understand the real effectiveness of the system.
Partnership for mine detection system development
After working in this field for a long time, we have clearly realized that it is impossible to go all this way on our own. If we really want to clear Ukraine from landmines and UXO, we need to join forces. If you think you have equipment or a solution that could help this initiative become better, please contact us.