GPS-equipped ‘Tumbleweeds’ and Drones Could Aid Landmine Clearance

The Mine Kafon Foundation is testing out low-cost ways of safely detecting and detonating landmines.

Autor*in Anna Rees, 01.23.17

The Mine Kafon Foundation is testing out low-cost ways of safely detecting and detonating landmines.

An estimated 110 million landmines are buried in about 60 countries around the world. According to CARE, the worst-affected countries are Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Iraq and Laos. Presence of landmines affects not only people’s safety, but also their land rights. Landmine clearance is extremely precarious work, and the caution used to carry this out coupled with the painstaking task of detecting where landmines are buried can mean it can take years to clear an area of landmines. 

The Dutch-based Mine Kafon Foundation is developing cost-effective ways to find and trigger landmines in a way that eliminates the need for people to do it themselves. 

It Started with a Minesweeping Tumbleweed

The original Mine Kafon devices are large spherical, tumbleweed-shaped objects featuring about 70 bamboo and rubber legs attached to a central unit that houses a GPS system to track and map where landmines have been discovered. They are light enough to be pushed around by the wind but heavy enough to trigger any landmines they roll over. Each unit can handle up to four blasts and costs less than 40 USD to build. 

The brains behind the project is Afghan designer Massoud Hassani. The design of the product is based on wind-powered toys that Hassani would chase around as a kid and first came about in 2011 when he was developing his graduation project while studying at the Design Academy Eindhoven. 

Mine Kafon | Callum Cooper from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

The ingenious design has seen the project collect a slew of accolades, and it was exhibited at Milan Design Week and in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. But being displayed in a museum is not Mine Kafon’s end goal, and the team has spent years researching, developing and testing the product to be able to get it out into the field. The Mine Kafon concept has evolved from a ground-based application to an airbourne one; currently Hassani and his brother Mahmud are tinkering with a drone prototype that is able to scan for, detect and detonate landmines from the air (each unit would cost about 1,100 USD).

In order to get the drones into the field, the team launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2016. Mine Kafon Foundation reached its initial fundraising goal of 70,000 USD in just 10 days – now the goal has been expanded so that the team can test hydrogen cell batteries in the drones. 

To contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, click here or head to the Mine Kafon Foundation’s website to learn more about the initiative. 

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