Home / Security / Militaries developing robots, ground vehicles and drones to detect and detonate land mines and IEDs

Militaries developing robots, ground vehicles and drones to detect and detonate land mines and IEDs

Several countries suffer from the existence of millions of buried landmines in their territories. These landmines have indefinite life, and may still cause horrific personal injuries and economic dislocation for decades after a war has finished.


Landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and other homemade bombs struck 6,461 people worldwide in 2015, killing at least 1,672, according to a report by the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines and Cluster Munition Coalition. Survivors are often left with devastating injuries. In a study published in BMJ Open, 70 percent of people hit by IEDS in Afghanistan required multiple amputations. According to the UN Mine Action Service, landmines kill 15,000–20,000 people every year (mostly children) and maim countless more across 78 countries.


IEDs were responsible for approximately two-thirds of U.S. and Coalition casualties suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Civilian casualties from IEDs number in the tens of thousands. A Navy explosive ordnance disposal expert with multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan characterized the influence of IEDs on the conduct of operations in those countries this way: “No other weapon shaped the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan like the IED. It required that troops charged with enhancing population security confine themselves to massive, armored vehicles and travel at high rates of speed or plow through farmers’ fields to avoid roads entirely. It slowed dismounted troops forced to sweep with metal detectors and divert around empty intersections. It partitioned Baghdad with 12-foot high concrete walls and caused a fertilizer shortage for farmers in Afghanistan. It was the only insurgent weapon that could cause mass civilian casualties, undermining local governance, the credibility of counter-insurgent efforts, and ensuring a steady stream of atrocities — of the horrors of intervention — could be broadcast globally.”


Demining efforts cost US 300–1000 USD per mine, and, for every 5000 mines cleared, one person is killed and two are injured. Thus, clearing post-combat regions of landmines has proven to be a difficult, risky, dangerous and expensive task with enormous social implications for civilians. The demining has two contexts, the military and the humanitarian. The main aim of the military is cleaning the path where the soldiers are going to walk through. Instead the humanitarian must clear the zone of mines to ensure the life of every member of the community who lives close to the danger region. “There are literally millions of anti-personnel mines in the ground in places where people need to grow food, or need to walk to the nearest well, or simply go about their daily business – shelter under a tree from the Sun,” explains Bill Lionheart, a mathematician at the University of Manchester in the UK.


Many technologies have been employed in detection of landmines from  metal detectors to  ground penetrating radar, acoustic and  Electric Impedance Tomography (EIT) to Infrared Imaging Systems. Each technique is suitable for detection under some conditions depending on the type of the landmine case, the explosive material, and the soil.


Robotic vehicles and drones are also being increasingly employed for mind detection and clearing, to reduce the risk to the personnel. Detecting mines is an ideal application for small mobile robots, and Carnegie Robotics is making it easier by adding (supervised) autonomy to its Standoff Robotic Explosive Hazard Detection (SREHD) robot.

Three new Nato scientific technologies designed to detect and clear improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have been successfully tested in Florence, Italy. Developed in the framework of Nato’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, the three technologies include a semi-autonomous robot for mines and IED detection, a lightweight mine detector, and a handheld detector for dirty bombs.

Mine Detection and clearing vehicles

Explosive landmines represent one of the most risky issues for people that live in con-flict areas. The demining process has 3 key steps: detection, excavation and detonation. The current status quo for demining in post-conflict areas is manual detection using metal detectors and prodders, trained animals such dogs and rats to detect explosives, and mechanical clearance using armored vehicles equipped with flails, tillers, rollers or similar devices.


Depending on how deep the mine is buried in the ground it can take up to an hour to excavate just one landmine or UXO. This is on top of wearing 5kg of protective gear, often in the sweltering heat. One wrong move is the difference between life and death for manual deminers, resulting in 63.8% of humanitarian mine clearance casualties from 2005 to 2010.


The military has been the first to deploy machines as an attempt to overcome the risks involved when the landmine detection process is carried out by humans. Currently, there are fully autonomous systems which do not require a human operator for monitoring both detection and deactivation of explosive landmines, however these systems are highly expensive and also require qualified personnel


US army Husky Mine Detection Systems (HMDS)

The Husky Vehicle Mounted Mine Detector (VMMD), previously known as Chubby, is a wheeled landmine detection and route clearance system produced by DCD Protected Mobility (DCD), a part of DCD GROUP.  The Husky Mounted Detection System is designed to counter improvised explosive devices that give stand-off detection and location marking of surface and buried explosives, including unexploded ordnance.  It is designed to be used in rough terrain and urban area route clearance operations to protect other vehicles and convoys. HMDS is mounted on Husky vehicles.


The vehicle is designed to detect landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with high probability of detection (Pd) and low false alarm rate (FAR). The height of the sensor installed on the Husky can be controlled automatically to adjust in various terrains. The Husky is also attached with the Mine Detonation Trailer (MDT) set to detonate any left out mines. The Husky VMMD is capable of detecting both metal and non-metal buried explosives but can also be customised to detect user-defined threats. The Husky VMMD can clear a path of three meters at a maximum speed of 50km/h.


Operator survivability is achieved through the Husky’s V-shaped hull and ability to shed secondary components in a predictable fashion – taken together, these two design features shield the driver from the worst impact of an IED blast. V-shaped undercarriage to direct the blast away from the vehicle and protect its driver. One of the most unique aspects of the Husky is its ability to pass over pressure fused anti-vehicle landmines without detonating them. Vehicle components have been engineered in a unique modular configuration so that in the event of an IED detonation, they will break apart in a predictable fashion.


Sensors aboard Husky VMMD system

The Husky vehicle is equipped with NIITEK’s VISOR™ 2500 Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR), with four panelled 3.2m array at the front. The GPR detects the mines and explosives by using hydraulically-controlled deploy and retract modes. “The Husky VMMD can run over pressure-fused anti-vehicle landmines without exploding them.” The GPR can be optionally installed with EMI Coils three-meter Wide Scan for See-Deep Metal Detector Array.


CSES’s VISOR 2500 ground-penetrating radar is designed for buried mine and similar explosives detection using ultra-wideband ground-penetrating radar arrays and automatic target recognition. The system uses ultra-wide-bandwidth impulses, has a high signal to clutter ratio, low radar cross-section, is lightweight, and offers low power consumption, CSES officials say.


The vehicle is fitted with automatic target recognition algorithms for GPR and MD data processing.
The vehicle’s navigation system includes NGC LN-270 INS with GPS, SAASM anti-jamming module, and Starfire DGPS module.

FLIR systems  UGVs to aid in detection of IEDs

FLIR Systems, Inc. announced that the U.S. Marine Corps has ordered more than 140 of the company’s Centaur unmanned ground vehicles (UGV), plus spares. The $18.6 million contract is sourced through the Department of Defense Man Transportable Robotic System Increment II (MTRS Inc II) program.


FLIR announced the U.S Air Force had ordered almost 200 Centaurs through a $23 million contract earlier this month. Marine Corps Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams will use the FLIR Centaur to assist in disarming improvised explosive devices (IEDs), unexploded ordnance, and similar hazardous tasks. Different sensors and payloads can be added to support a range of missions.


In 2017, the U.S. Army chose Endeavor Robotics, acquired a year ago by FLIR, as its medium-sized robot provider for MTRS Inc II. The company designed the all-new Centaur as its MTRS solution.


Centaur is a medium-sized UGV that provides a standoff capability to detect, confirm, identify, and dispose of hazards. Weighing roughly 160 pounds, the open-architecture robot features an EO/IR camera suite, a manipulator arm that reaches over six feet, and the ability to climb stairs. Modular payloads can be used for CBRNE detection and other missions, according to FLIR.


FLIR Systems  secured a $109m contract from the US Army to supply up to 350 Common Robotic System-Heavy (CRS-H) systems. The systems will improve the protection of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) soldiers by allowing them to detect, access and achieve final disposition of hazardous devices at a safe standoff. Under the potential five-year contract, FLIR Systems will start deliveries in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020. The CRS-H system will feature payloads such as cameras, one radio relay, manipulator arm, radios, cargo carrier rack and operator control unit. It will deliver an enhanced capability to deal safely with improvised explosive devices (IEDs), weapons of mass destruction and vehicle-borne IEDs.


“The current approach allows the army to focus resources on fast-changing payload technology, rather than having to replace entire systems, meaning soldiers can access new technology faster and can buy more of what the army really requires.” The system’s manipulator arm lift capacity, close to the platform, is expected to be more than 275lbs. The CRS-H has a speed in excess of 6mph and obstacle clearance of more than 3in.


Next-Generation Multi-Purpose Military UGV Launched

Milrem Robotics, a developer of robotic warfare solutions, has announced the launch of the fifth generation of its THeMIS UGV (unmanned ground vehicle). The new UGV is being exhibited at the DSEI 2019 trade show in London.


The THeMIS is a multipurpose tracked unmanned vehicle that can be equipped with a variety of auxiliary systems including weapons platforms, tethered drones, and sensors for targeting, IED detection and more. Many integrated systems have already been designed around the THeMIS UGV by companies such as Kongsberg, FN Herstal and MBDA, and live firing tests have been conducted with five different weapon systems, including an anti-tank missile launcher based on the Javelin platform.


The fifth generation of the THeMIS UGV has taken advantage of results of tests conducted around the world, as well as critical intelligence gained from battlefield deployment. The vehicle follows NATO STANAG standards in many aspects of its design, including architecture, safety, air transportability and power offload. Our engineers have taken into account the feedback from different armed forces and carried it into the design creating a really robust and reliable tool to support dismounted troops,” commented Kuldar Väärsi, CEO of Milrem Robotics


The first of the new THeMIS UGVs have already been delivered to the Netherlands and Norway, designed as logistics platforms for the transport of gear and supplies, with an option to be fitted with additional warfighting equipment. Milrem is currently developing additional advanced autonomy features for the vehicle, including point-to-point navigation, obstacle detection and avoidance.


Nato technologies and semi-autonomous robot for IED detection and clearance tested in Italy

University of Florence professor and Holographic and Impulse Subsurface Radar for Landmine and IED Detection project co-director Lorenzo Capineri said: “Participants diffused the results of their work, compared the developed methods and found possible synergies to increase the technological readiness level of the sensors, the electronics systems and the detection methods of these projects.” Using new impulse radar and 3D data for real-time detection, the semi-autonomous robot can be deployed to prevent casualties during explosives detection.


Named ‘U-GO First’, the robot was developed by a project coordinated by Italy, the US and Ukraine. Developed by a project co-led by Norway and Ukraine, the easy-to-use and cost-effective handheld ultra-wideband (UWB) mine detector was manufactured through 3D printing. The handheld device to detect dirty bombs can be primarily used to safeguard ports and enhance border security. This project has been jointly developed by Australia, Croatia, Japan, Portugal and Slovenia.


Small, unmanned excavator robot prototype called “Jevit”

Jevit means life in Khmer, and is a robot which makes demining safer and more efficient. It is blast protected by metal plating and can be used as a platform for multiple detection equipment and robotic manipulators to handle UXOs. Jevit can be remotely operated to excavate a landmine, UXO and IEDS within minutes from a distance of up to 300m while monitoring from the safety of a control system.


Jevit excavates explosives without detonation by using a patented excavating mechanism that efficiently penetrates earth beside and ultimately underneath the explosive with three individually rotating augers which then lift. The mechanism is robust to penetrate any soil type and practical in a wide range of operating conditions. The penetrating tool is lifted, exposing the explosive, which then can be safely disposed through controlled detonation or defused.


Jevit is capable of manoeuvring in rugged minefield terrain and easily transportable on a pickup truck. Jevit weighs less than 600kg and can be transported in the back of a pickup truck. Rather than aiming to process large amounts of ground without human interaction, Jevit instead does spot-processing: excavating small plots of soil where detectors indicate a potential threat. Jevit integrates directly into the manual clearance process, making the most dangerous and time consuming part of the deminers work, manual excavation, fast and safe.


Counter IED market growth

MarketsandMarkets forecasts the counter-IED market size to grow from USD 1.78 billion in 2017 to USD 2.03 billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 2.64% during the forecast period from 2017 to 2022. The major factors that are expected to be driving the counter-IED market are the changing nature of modern warfare, increasing incidences of terror attacks involving improvised explosive device (IED) blasts across the globe, increasing demand for counter-IED equipment and devices from the emerging economies as they have low budgets for carrying out R&D activities for the development of new and advanced counter-IED technologies, and deployment of different types of advanced IED detection and countermeasure equipment.


Among end users, the military segment is expected to lead the counter-IED market in 2017. Militaries of different countries across the globe are widely engaged in dealing with insurgents, terrorists, and other non-state actors, who use improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as a major tool to inflict increased damages to public and private properties and cause casualties. As such, different types of counter-IED equipment are used by militaries of different countries to counter threats posed by these improvised explosive devices (IEDs).


By capability, the market for counter IED is segmented into detection, and, countermeasure. The detection segment has been further sub-segmented into ADS-above-surface detection system, MIDS-underground mine and IED Detection system, remote IED inspection equipment, and, stand-off IED detectors. The countermeasure segment is sub-segmented into jammers, and, neutralization. The Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED) will drive growth in jammers segment for countering remote-controlled improvised explosive devices.


Leading players in the global counter IED market include Thales Group, Raytheon Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Lockheed Martin Corporation, L3 Technologies, Harris Corporation, General Dynamics Corporation, Elbit Systems Ltd., Chemring Group plc, and BAE Systems.


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