Landmines are worse than even the most unscrupulous mercenary sniper because it can wait for years and be just as dangerous. One piece of statistics says that Libya has landmines left behind from World War II and so even after sixty years they continue their gory vigil to trap the unwary. By the way, 27 percent of the total farming land there cannot be used because of these landmines that hide in the most unlikely places waiting to strike. No wonder then that they have been called ‘the perfect soldier’ by some.
Newint gives some chilling facts about them. There are 110 million active landmines in over 70 countries in the world which means that there is one landmine for every 17 children in the world or one landmine for every 52 people. Landmines have been the silent killer for thousands of innocent lives and have maimed civilians for life.
The heartening fact is that there are armies constantly clearing areas… but then wars have also been happening all over. Afghanistan, Angola, Sudan, Mozambique, Somalia, Cambodia, Georgia, Namibia, Syria, and Libya are just a few of the countries where landmine casualties have been reported. A recent press release mentioned that these war stricken countries have hundreds of ‘mothers killed or mutilated by landmines which places her entire family at risk of malnutrition and disease. A child mutilated by a landmine often becomes a burden on its family, health services and society in general’.
Solutions exist. Well, we have technology emerging as a saviour though it needs to be understood that ‘clearing mines is very dangerous work. For every 5,000 mines that are removed, one person is killed and two people are injured’ says another report.
A press release from Sastra Robotics & Qbotics Labs mentions that ‘robotic startups from Kerala, India, collaboratively formed a team named Autobots and has reached the finals of the Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC) which is a part of the biggest and most prestigious robotics conference in the world organised by Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE).’ Team Autobots from Kerala has expert engineers from Qbotics Labs, which specializes in robotics research and Sastra Robotics who specialize in robotic arms for the testing of devices. The members of the team are Lentin Joseph ( CEO/Founder, QBotics Labs) who is leading the team, Achu Wilson (CTO/Co-Founder, Sastra Robotics) and Chandykunju Alex( Robotics Engineer, Sastra Robotics). This team has developed a complete solution to detect the presence and position of landmines using an all-terrain robot that they call Husky. Quite obviously, Husky does its job efficiently and accurately without causing any untoward explosions. The International Conference of Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2016) aims to bring together the best and the most involved scientists and researchers working with cutting edge robotics, and is happening at Stockholm, Sweden from May 16th to 21st. This outcome at this conference will surely be worth waiting for because at least some of the solutions will be having a direct bearing on how the menace of dormant landmines can be handled swiftly and without any more loss of lives.
There are hundreds of stories filed every year on the dangers of de-mining areas and the stories continue unabated as wars seem to go on somewhere or the other. Landmines can dream their gory dream for decades and never grow tired. They remain normal on the surface and lie undetected until an innocent child steps on it playfully… and death explodes without giving his smile a chance to win its heart.
I wish the best solution to de-mine our killing fields wins.
Those who wish to have access to more details on the new robotic landmine sweeper, can contact:
Sastra Robotics India Pvt Ltd
21/536A, CUSAT PO, Cochin
Kerala, India 682022
16 May 2016