When the team from Cambodia Self-Help Demining (CSHD) clears a minefield, the metal detectors can detect as many as 900 items of metallic clutter for every single identified threat. A vast and expensive inefficiency.
Each of those positive results must be treated as though dangerous, requiring an enormous investment of time and money.
Bill Morse, CSHD’s chief operations officer, is now an advisor to a project that may help resolve this problem – an iPhone App.
Morse has hooked up with Red Lotus Technology, a US-based start-up company that is developing PETALS, a technology which uses Smartphones to create a visual image of the metallic field created by the debris left in a minefield.
The iPhone attaches to a standard metal detector and each time it identifies a ‘hit,’ the deminer waves his machine over the area in a specific pattern.
Using the magnetic field, the application creates a digital picture of what lies beneath the ground.
“The ultimate objective with PETALS is to create a tool that easily and quickly identifies mines from junk,” said Morse.
“We need something that is cheap and easy to use. Ground penetrating radar is expensive and it’s difficult to train people.”
According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, 1,624 square kilometres of land in Cambodia remain contaminated.
And the Cambodia Mine Action and Victim Assistance Authority said it will require $455 million to clear 650 square kilometres and survey 1,098 square kilometres of land over the next six years.
Technology that can speed up this process may have a tremendous effect.
“I think the technology is the most promising I have seen,” said Morse, who is looking forward to the trials to be conducted in Siem Reap in March.
“If it can 100 per cent safely distinguish junk from mines, we are talking about a quantum leap in landmine clearance. We could clear fields in a fraction of the time, and faster means fewer deaths and dismemberment.”