Strange as it looks, this sand-colored thing. But it’s interesting. And somehow it does not fit at all here. So a more tragic story could begin high in the mountains of Afghanistan. A story, at the end of a severely injured, for life drawn child. A child who has held a Soviet Landmine of the type PFM-1 for a toy. Until it exploded – triggered by a detonator, which not only reacts to the weight of a few kilograms, but also, for example, to ensure that the Mine is shaken.

So it happened again and again. And so it’s going to happen next. According to the international campaign against land mines, will have been in the past year, worldwide 2793 people by mines killed more than 4431 people were injured. In almost half of the victims where the age was known were children.

The PFM-1 was not originally developed to Kill, but to Maim. Also in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, Somalia and Chechnya, the only 75 grams butterfly mines, have been used. And not only the Soviets or Russians have used such devilish weapons, but also the Americans (“BLU 43”) in Vietnam.

it is Particularly tricky at this mine type, of the not buried, but from the air or with rockets and grenades distributed was dropped: no one knows exactly where the small explosive devices. With the classic method of mine search – a metal detector – you will not find. Because they contain just as well as no magnetizable metal.

land mines of the type PFM-1 (training ammunition)

“they are so designed that they can not be found,” says Alex Nikulin from Binghamton University (upstate New York). But, together with colleagues, he has developed a radical approach to the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Society (AGU) meeting, presented in Washington: researchers track down the mines from the air, with the help of a commercial drone. Which carries on its underside a highly sensitive infrared camera.

And so, you should be tracking: The PFM-1 is located on the sandy and stony ground, you can think about how Cornflakes up in a bag with cereal. In the ideal case, the Mine is not hidden and is visible in the thermal image: If in the morning the sun rises, heats up the liquid explosives is much faster than the Rock in the area. A “thermal anomaly”, as she calls it. At sunset, it is Vice versa: The land mines are beginning to cool slower than the Rest of the landscape.

principle does not work in all regions of the world

Together with his colleague, Timothy de Smet, he decided to try the principle in a field in a State Park in Binghamton tested. The use of exercise mines were, like Nikulin dabeihat you in his presentation in Washington: Roughly the size of a Smartphone and covered with a soft polyethylene contain – luckily – no explosive charge. In the experiments, it was important to be guided by the chemical properties of the fill as close as possible to the Soviet liquid explosives. He believe that the well-managed, says Nikulin.

For each Test, the researchers have distributed 18 mines randomly in an approximately 10 times 20 meters large Ellipse. You’ve flown over, then the drone in about ten meters in height. On the thermal images, the mines are not recognize, regardless of their location to the researcher. Deminers could investigate in this way suspicious areas quickly. “We can dramatically narrow down the area where the mines are located.” At the Moment values of the images by Hand, but working on an algorithm for this task.

you might also presented Steve Przybilla deminers in the Falklands: “Almost as if I was a soldier in the war”

In a number of publications, most recently in the “Journal of Conventional Weapons Destruction” of interest to the scientists of their approach. It is clear already now: The mine is not a search by drone will work in all regions of the world. It is difficult, for example, if the booby traps are overgrown by plants. That would be, for example, in Vietnam the case.

The Mine clearance Community, apply in the case of the supposedly new technological approaches as rather conservative. The researchers will therefore need to many conversations. At the same time you plan further Experiments, this time in the Mojave desert, California. In order to get the conditions in Afghanistan are very close, says Nikulin.

Even if only a small part of the butterfly identified mines with the help of drones and – in a second step, such as with a controlled demolition – harmless could be made, much would be won. Worldwide, according to the researchers, were distributed to the 100 million land mines. Several million of them to be butterfly mines in Afghanistan. At the same time last year, were defused in the entire country 14.629 mines.

Sam Yoon has many years of experiences in journalism. He has covered such areas as information technology, science, sports and politics. Yoon can be reached at 82-2-6956-6698.