In 1997, the Ottawa Treaty sought to put an end to the use of landmines during war. However, even with this treaty, there's still a massive issue with the landmines that remain undetected all over the world. In fact, there are so many landmines that their numbers are unknown, although experts guess that at least millions of unexploded mines remain buried in more than 76 countries. What’s even worse is that these landmines are still dangerous: most can remain active for over 50 years. Obviously, detecting these mines before they cause more harm is a priority. That’s why engineers at the University of Coimbra in Portugal have converted a Husky robot into a landmine detector.
The open-source Husky robot is an all-terrain machine, designed and developed by Canadian company Clearpath Robotics. Last year, Clearpath gave one of its models to Coimbra for free to make this happen. Although the robot wasn't originally developed to detect mines (at least not intentionally), the university team converted it by adding sensors, GPS, stereo vision, a laser, and a new arm equipped with both a metal detector and a radar system that can find objects underground. The idea is that the remote-controlled robot will use this arm to locate and detect mines, all without blowing itself up. However, if it does get a little too close and the mine explodes, it has still saved a human from the same fate.
Of course, this robot still can’t disarm mines it finds, but perhaps once one is found, something like the massive Digger tank could come in and explode it, along with other nearby mines. Or perhaps the mines can be retrieved, disarmed and turned into furniture. Whatever the scenario, the Coimbra robot has already been adopted by humanitarian project TIRAMISU (not the dessert), which seeks to find solutions for locating, disarming and disposing of all landmines across the world.