Researchers from the University of Kansas are traveling the world to test a new, high-tech method for one of the world’s riskiest undertakings: mapping land mines. The aim is to develop a system that will allow mapping a mine field without walking on it. Based on technology developed in Sweden, the system uses laser binoculars, a GPS, a hand-held computer and a digital camera to create maps of areas where mines have been detected. The information is forwarded to an international database that can be accessed by agencies that will come in to remove mines.
The Kansas team is studying how well the system works and how best to train those who will use it in mine-laden countries. Funding for the project comes from the Switzerland-based Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, which estimates there are between 40 million and 50 million land mines in the world. Members of the team recently returned from Ecuador, where they were identifying areas with mines from the Ecuador-Peru conflict of the mid-1990s. Their itinerary also includes Chile, Albania and the Western Sahara.