The United Nations reports that since the 1960s as many as 110 million landmines have been spread globally into some 70 countries. Metal detectors are currently used to try and locate the mines, but a new startup has come up with a prototype that could more quickly identify the mines by providing a visual confirmation via smartphones.
Red Lotus Technologies is the startup with saving lives in mind. The technology it's seeking to fund is called PETALS — Pattern Enhancement Tool for Assisting Landmine Sensing. The system was created by co-founder Lahiru Jayatilaka, a Sri Lankan who developed the system as a Harvard undergrad.
The PETAL system uses smartphones (demonstration photos shows an iPhone, though a preferred platform is not named) attached to a device that can read the metallic signature of the buried item. The phone then displays the relative shape of the object, giving observers a chance to be able to visually determine whether the item is a mine or just junk.
It seems the metal detectors used in demining are so sensitive in sniffing out metal that they also sound an alert for other objects like shrapnel, cans or car parts. This means that each time, a disposal technician needs to stop and investigate, wasting valuable time given the enormous amount of mines left to be cleared.
Bill Morse, who works out in the field with the Landmine Relief Fund clearly illustrates the problem and frustration in trying to clear the mines. He reports for every 1,000 mines cleared in Cambodia, the current detectors sound an alarm 100,000 times.
The slow process leaves mines in the field that kill and maim thousands every year, and disrupts agrarian production and supply routes.
Red Lotus Technologies is running an Indiegogo campaign to secure the funding needed to not only refine the technology that identifies the shapes and patterns of items, but to also purchase materials and build the equipment to get it into the field.
They have 37 days left to reach their goal of $150,000.