Friday, January 18, 2013

Vision can help clear landmines

The United Nations estimates that there are more than 110m landmines scattered in 70 countries and, using current technologies, it would take over 1100 years and more than $33bn to clear them.

To help speed up the process, the UK-based Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has formed a partnership with Find A Better Way (FABW) -- a charity founded by Sir Bobby Charlton -- to fund one or more research projects focused on new ways of detecting landmines.

During a recent event held at Lloyds of London, the organizations jointly launched a call for outlines for those wishing to submit full proposals for projects, lasting between one to four years, to address research challenges in areas of landmine detection.

FABW is making around £1m available for the research and it is expected that many individuals will have research ideas to contribute. FABW aims to develop technology to accelerate the detection and safe removal of landmines globally.

The outfits are looking for research proposals which will lead to the development -- within a seven-year timescale -- of new technologies able to make the process of detecting and locating landmines for humanitarian clearance faster, cheaper and safer.

Clearly, there's scope here for those involved in the world of vision systems to make a significant contribution to these efforts. Outside the UK, many researchers such as Roger Achkar from the America University of Science and Technology (Beirut, Lebanon), for example, have already done so.

Last year, Achkar disclosed that his team had developed a robot that captures images of contaminated areas which are then processed by an artificial neural network to classify both the make and model of landmines. The results of his research work can be found here.

But clearly, a lot more work needs to be done and the new initiative is a welcome step in the right direction. Those interested in the project can find a list of organizations and individuals who are eligible to apply for funding here. The closing date for submission of outlines is March 25 2013.

More information on the project itself can be found on the EPSRC web site here.

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