Mine rollers and mine flails like this have been tried and tested since WWI but none have proven completely effective in finding and clearing mines. This is partially because they only work well on totally flat terrain and rapidly lose effectiveness in rougher terrain where a large number of mines are typically buried.
In practice, solutions like this achieve only 50-60% effectiveness at clearing minefields, which makes them useless for civilian demining which demands a 99% clearance rate.
For that reason there's been a ton of research in this area which has resulted in better demining vehicles and interesting new techniques such as using sniffer dogs or rats to detect the explosives inside landmines. This is especially useful for the numerous plastic-shelled landmines that resist standard detection methods.
Using a layered approach with these techniques, civilian demining organisations like Mechem (which pioneered the use of sniffer dogs) are now able to achieve a high enough clearance rate to make areas safe, though the work is expensive and time-consuming. If you support this sort of work, donating money to demining NGOs would be better than funding yet another ineffective mine roller.
"The Mine Kafon has just been tested by the Dutch Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit, which has concluded that it is not suitable for mine clearance (which requires a more systematic approach), but at $50 each could be used as a cheap and safe way to identify dangerous areas that need demining."
All this discussion is because of an over-enthusiastic headline, not what the tool is actually intended for.
If you manage to clear a field such that there is a single mine in it, it will likely become safer to march through than avoid - there are plenty of other things that can kill you, and they must be triaged in war time.
However, if you take that same field after the war is over and put a farmer on it, it's basically a matter of time until he steps on it. His only chance is that an animal blows it up, or the mine is defective.
Therefore, if it's not suitable for military clearing, it is even less suitable for civilian purposes (except for figuring out what needs to be cleared, as they say).
[Added] I’m talking from a US perspective, but it seems plausible that most developed country militaries spend on technology when in time of peace.
My guess is that demining NGOs will be using something like this soon enough if it proves effective, though, so any donation dollar really is best sent there for maximum effectiveness.
The problem with communities doing it themselves is it'll give them a false sense of security about the safety of known minefields. This could potentially increase the number of mine-related injuries because far more people will attempt to live in or traverse known minefields which they wrongly believe to have been cleared yet which still contain roughly half of the original mines.
This concept is actually worse than useless because of the debris it scatters across a minefield and the false confidence it provides. While I applaud the designer's attempt to create something useful, his lack of domain knowledge has resulted in a design that doesn't solve the problem and may make things worse.
If I come across as bit hyperbolic, it's because I strongly believe that this is a horrible and underreported problem which demands both carefully-considered and effective solutions and acknowledgement of the people whose hard work and sacrifices have made so many places safe again.
It seems silly to laud an ineffective design while there are people out there every day clearing landmines with solutions that work.
You're saying something akin to: 'tyres are useless because cars also need engines; people are already effectively using tyres; often tyres don't work'.
>It seems silly to laud an ineffective design while there are people out there every day clearing landmines with solutions that work. //
Solutions that according to you - strongly implied eve within the parent comment - include rollers.
"Mine rollers are useless [for that purpose] and so should never be used to clear mines under any circumstances."
Yes or no?
Mine rollers can be effective for civilian demining, but only in the right type of terrain with the right type of vegetation and when used in concert with other demining techniques. I didn't just imply that it my posts, I stated it outright when asked when and where mine rollers could be effective.
But when used independently, as the Mine Kafon's video shows, mine rollers are useless for civilian demining and, because of the false sense of security they provide, could even be harmful. A minefield that people believe to be cleared, but isn't, is far more dangerous than a minefield that's demarcated and which most people know to avoid.
So I'd amend your provided phrase and say:
"Mine rollers used independently are useless for civilian demining and should not be seen as civilian mine clearance solutions."
I'm not sure how much clearer I could be on this.
"Mine rollers can be effective for civilian demining".
So, hang on maybe they're not useless as _djo_ was contending. But wait, why is it they can be effective we ask, oh right it's because they
"are useless for civilian demining".
The context of those phrases, which you removed, made it clear enough that the first phrase referred to mine rolling as part of a system of complementary techniques while the second referred to it as a technique used on its own.
By intentionally removing that context so as to attempt to prove the phrases contradictory, you've proven only that you're more interesting in trolling than in debating this seriously. So I see no point in continuing this conversation.
The point was that you started by saying the thing was useless and persisted to try and defend that point despite acceding that similar devices are used and useful.
There was nothing to debate, I simply called you on over-exaggeration and you refuse to accept it is. Fair enough you clearly know more about the domain in question. But the information you've given is the counterpoint to your initial claim.
The reason I quoted without the full context was because that indicated your initial argument. The extended quote was how you adapted your argument against the claim that you were wrongly portraying the true position.
A patch of land is unusable while mined; useful when cleared, but if it's 50% cleared (or 80% cleared) then it is murderous, because then it gets used, resulting in dead and crippled locals.
A field that you must use to avoid starving has 100 mines in it, you can remove [on average] 55 of those mines using a locally made and affordable device. The field will be used anyway. Would you deploy the device?
You're leading a demining team. A village have asked you to clear a field that they rely on for crops (other areas are too rocky or haven't enough good soil). You can send out some locally produced cheap demining devices first that will remove about 50% of the mines reducing the risk to your team. Would you deploy the device?
"is not useful" you say?
Your position appears to be a counterpoint to a statement that these devices will clear all mines effectively from all areas in all conditions. I've not seen anyone make such a claim. Your position is only tenable when a mined area is not needed by the locals.
The devices, and the beautifully made film, have another purpose which is far from useless too - attracting attention and thence funding for demining projects.
The argument for partial demining leading to increased harm requires that land that is mined remain completely unused otherwise or be completely demined. As soon as there is any use then reducing the number of mines statistically [and yes maybe simplistically] will be better - which would you rather, walk across a field of 200 mines or 400 mines?
Professionally demined areas are only cleared to a level of about 99.6% according to the thread so the argument for increased risk of harm still works in that case - more risk from mines when walking in a 'completely' demined area than in an area in which mines have never been placed.
Provided the weight came mostly from the core and the core never itself got blown up, I'd saw it can clear more than a couple of land mines for the money. Perhaps, a land mine per plastic plate, and if an NGO is paying for Afghani wages, you can roll that baby all day.
Bonus: it creates a relatively "safe" path in its footstep.
The haphazard nature of the exploration is the big issue and using this would most likely give people a false sense of security. This is an interesting piece of lo-tech design created with the very best of intentions, but it is essentially useless and may even be harmful.
Does it matter if you blow some mines, if you don't make a single square feet of guarantee mine-free soil?
That's not a rhetorical question. I'm genuinely interested.
And as another poster (codebeaker) pointed out, it's also far worse for demining teams to have random shrapnel spread over a minefield, as it makes the job of identifying mines much more difficult. That's one of the reasons why demining teams use systems that are less likely to break and leave pieces on the minefield.
So it's unlikely that this product will save any money.
1. Is it really useful at all to only clear half the landmines? I would assume the area is still too dangerous to be useful even with only 40% of the landmines remaining.
2. Given #1, it would follow that additional (expensive) land mine clearing technologies would always be needed in addition. I don't know how these work or are billed out, but if the cost is per square mile or some similar area-based unit (instead of say, per mine), then clearing out 60% of the landmines first would not affect the supplemental cost. You've still got to cover the same area to catch the other 40%.
Anyway, you've had my disclaimer at the top, and I could be totally wrong about this :) Just some thoughts.
I'd be extremely surprised to find that a commercial clearing of mines for an area with 40 mines was the same cost as clearing that same area with 400 mines. Equally that clearing a double-sized area with 40 mines was the same cost.
Either way you'd reduce costs - reducing search area or reducing removal+disposals needed. [fwiw _djo_ intimated that the increased cost to the process of debris removed any utility such devices might have but also suggested that similar devices are in current commercial use].
With a sandy area I'm wondering how well a dragged scarifier like implement would fair.
This method won't make the land usable safely, so the reality would see a bunch of cheap partial clearances with no real benefit - the areas will still be no go zones.
And there are even mines specifically designed to be resistant to mine flails https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MAT/6_mine
Still, I agree with your first point.
Is that an actual official classification? It seems a bit low. "There were 1000 mines here, and we found 990 of them. Good enough, I say. Move in, and bring your kids!"
For instance, Mechem's sniffer dogs have displayed a 90% success rate on target filters, so statistically having three dogs per team perform cross-checking paths on the field should produce the 99.6% confidence level for the type of mines the dogs can detect.
I know nothing at all about this area, but presumably this only works if the 10% failure rate is random rather than based on some quality of the undetected mines?
But of course that isn't true in reality. There will be properties of the mines (burial depth, ground cover, degree of leakage of sniffable explosive material) that affect its chance of being found by all dogs searching for a mine.
If you wanted the parent poster's statistical chance, you'd want three 90% ways of detecting mines that are truly independent. Perhaps a dog, and infrared imaging sensitive enough to detect the explosive material (I have no idea if that's possible), and this article's mechanism.
Well, this tech is not for the authorities. Its for children to use to help clear the danger away from their villages. Its a tech that anyone can apply, not just those with access industrialized manufacturing facilities and the 'mine-clearing economy'.
99% clearance rate? I think most villages would be happy with being able to clear a safe path for their kids to walk on, at any rate. This cheap, useful, easy to apply technology allows that to occur. Make 100 of them, let them loose for a few weeks, and suddenly 99% seems a lot more doable with this method than any other - especially for the resource-lacking Afghani villages who are left with the war liability that the imperial, authoritarian states, have given them ..
When you demine an area, you signal that it's safe for the population to move in, which means that if you haven't actually cleared 99% of the mines you're increasing the possibility of a person stepping on a mine. That's the reason the UN demands such a high clearance rate before an area can be declared safe for humans to live in.
People, you are some of the brightest and cleverest people walking the earth. And the earth has some nasty problems. They won't be solved by meaning well or looking cool.
In my early days I worked with homeless and mentally disabled people, I migrated to government policy to solve larger problems, but I was perpetually frustrated by the refusal to ask hard questions of stuff that sounded good. And you know what? I am so sorry to tell you, but there are people who have noticed this persistent absence of accountability, and who are willing to exploit it.
I have no particular reason to believe that the designer in the OP is a cynic. But you do his effort to help no favors by upvoting it to the moon because it looks cool. The informed and thoughtful critique in the comments DOES help, and a dialogue talking about the potential application of design to the problem would help still further. Here are a few ideas:
- Kids ignore warning signs around mine fields -- why not design hideous boundary demons to frighten them off?
- Design "clear trail" markers apparent in all weather and easily moved to reflect cleared sections?
- Mapped displays of mined areas as targets for Apple vs Microsoft battles to see who can clear more?
- Does the computing power of Raspberry Pi offer new possibilities for cheap clearance -- maybe gather seismographic data with controlled explosions to be analyzed for "echoes" of a landmine?
- Declaring total clearance is a problem, what if there were a program that took 99% cleared land and used as grazing pasture for 10 years so the cows can find the missing bombs?
These don't strike me as half bad and I suck so I expect most of this board can come up with better and more detailed.
The guy is trying to do something and that's great. But let's not just congratulate him and move on. Let's actually think about whether the damn thing helps, and if not, how design could help more.
Upvotes give a post visibility. Visibility fosters discussion. Discussion yields information, critique, and dialogue. I'm uncertain as to why you're complaining about the upvotes given that you want critique and comments.
I did think about about saying something about "upvote and comment" but 1) was already too long 2) wasn't sure that a sea of 300+ comments is an effective discussion.
Don't have a good answer for you.
Perhaps all it needs it changing one's own meaning behind an upvote from 'i full endorse the link' to 'this is a thread worthy of discussion'
Oh, please. It's exactly this kind of self-congratulatory bullshit that produces this community's inch-deep intellectual culture.
I think you're vastly overestimating this board's power & influence.
You act cynical and as though you have a 'realist' point of view, but nowhere do you mention holding the countries that dropped these weapons accountable. Why don't we shame them? Why don't we pay for handicapped children to come to the USA and peacefully sit in on protests? Why not make this the embarrassing issue it should be?
From the below link :
Mine clearance teams in Afghanistan report finding literally dozens of types of landmines, mainly from the ex-USSR, but also from Belgium, Italy, US and the UK. The most infamous mine used during the Soviet Union's occupation period was the so-called 'butterfly' mine. Helicopter crews dropped untold numbers (figures range into the millions) of the small mines from the air.
Also, I found this interesting. Clearly, it's not enough to demine the world, but it's more than the zero dollar amount you basically assume:
 Despite its refusal to join the treaty, the U.S. has done more to counteract mines than any other country, spending $1.9 billion during the past 18 years through the Humanitarian Mine Action Program—roughly a quarter of the total spent on demining and other remediation activities around the world. There's been a special emphasis on helping Cambodia, which has received more than $80 million since 1993.
Reason for not signing treaty isn't too great, but there is hope:
 The American position is complicated. The United States has not used antipersonnel land mines since 1991, not exported them since 1992, and not produced them since 1997. But the nation has a stockpile of some 10 million land mines, and prior to the '90s, it exported 4.4 million antipersonnel land mines, an unknown number of which are still in the ground.
Nonetheless, under pressure from the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Obama Administration has been conducting a comprehensive review of its land mine policy.
4.4 million exported, not clear if that includes how many they planted. This seems like it must be the majority, but it turns out there are an estimated 110 million planted in the world .
Grandparent was talking about Cambodia and Laos, not Afghanistan.
Also, cluster munitions are a much greater source of American unexploded ordinance (UXO) than mines. You'll find tons of American UXO in Afghanistan because of it. Each cluster has only a ~90% of detonating, and we dropped a but ton at the beginning of the war.
A practical cheap way to clear mines would both be useful locally, and increase the odds of some Senator pushing for a (cheap) goodwill project.
Since when did we become so cynical that every effort must be criticized on execution rather than lauded on effort?
There are concerns it might create false security. And that it mightn't be very useful to current strategies, probably followed those blue-suit guys, that do lead to proper security. For example exploded mine shrapnel can confuse mine detection gear.
Oh, and another one that has been popping up a lot around here lately is "vanishingly" (I've noticed Patio11 likes it a lot!).
I remember when I was little I built a small platform high up in a tree. My father refused to let me put a rail around it, because the sort of rail I could build would not be enough to stop a fall and would only encourage a sense of complacency.
Of course, I do not mean this as a criticism of the design, but merely as a path for future exploration.
An interesting demining approach is to buy the local villagers lots of sheep and pen them in the areas of concern. Once in a while a sheep goes boom. Meanwhile: wool and baby sheep as a side effect.
Similarly, training locals in demining with donated basic equipment is also good, in the sense that these new experts can sell their services locally. The down side is that these brave people take extra risk.
Both the livestock and local training methods were used in Bosnia, which had a serious landmine problem recently.
Sheep are scared stomachs on legs. When they see their daily source of food and nothing suspicious (such as a stranger), they reach. My grandfather could also call them and they would reach even with a stranger present.
That might kill sheep outright, but I doubt it.
Also, it suffers from the same problem as the Mine Kafon, in that it's a more-or-less random walk and you won't know whether the whole area is cleared.
Just to be clear, are you saying that it is only very slightly better for a sheep, rather than a human child, to be maimed by a land mine? That seems to be what you wrote, but I'm having a very difficult time reconciling your world view with my own, so I'm hoping that I am somehow misunderstanding.
And given that, what does it say about you as a person that you'd think that it was a good idea?
This might be an uncomfortable world view, taking how much we depend on non-human abuse in our civilization, but it's not the only case where we built it on abuse of others, human or not.
Animal lives and welfare do matter, but when it comes to weighing human lives against animal lives, only a ratio of something like a million-to-one may be ethically justified. Definitely not one-to-one sheep to a kid. Definitely not even hundred-to-one. It could be reasonable to sacrifice a few humans to spare a species from extinction, but not to save some individual animals, however sentient they may be.
My fellow humans are important. Leaving a kid to die to spare a hundred sheep is disgraceful.
How about we don't murder any sheep or children, and instead spend the money that we would've spent on sheep torture on better fences, signs, education and mine clearance? While you're at it, you can lobby your elected representative to spend more than the currently pitiful amount that they do on mine clearance.
ps. A million-to-one? You have a very interesting idea of "ethics". Also of "definitely".
Now, as a mental exercise, I suggest you replace "animal" with a racial slur of choice. Because, seriously, 100 years ago people said that about all kinds of other people. They actually still do. Having a slightly higher amount of common DNA is not a justification of whatever-the-hell.
And at the point where you say "however sentient they may be", you just go into downright I-don't-want-to-meet-that-person-in-a-dark-alley territory.
But, coming back to the original issue - it all comes down to two different theories of ethics, opinions about what is good and just: in essence, if some choice equals to murdering one to save ten others [a simplification for the sake of argument, assume that no alternatives exist] , would doing so be good or evil?
There are valid arguments to say that doing so would be evil by the nature of the act.
There are valid arguments to say that not doing so would be evil, by the result of the act (10 others dying instead of 1).
And I do value a human life of "a racial slur of choice" more than a hundred sheep - archaic laws did value human lives in a couple dozen of domestic animals, and that whas when a peasant's life was considered cheap; we can and should be better than that.
And I do value my kids life more than your life - that is also quite natural, I doubt that you'd find any parents who think otherwise.
It all adds up. I mean, if you start discussing life and death, then most solutions aren't pretty; and discussing only 'pure' solutions means not saving (= murdering) lives - such as the lives of people that could have been saved by some sheep.
This makes sense for the people who live there- the dessert is not an easy place to grow crops and a multi-purpose animal is very valuable for survival purposes. Animal rights is a tough sell in a place like this.
It seems like an ineffective non-systematic way to de-mine that damages animals that the Afghans value though.
i.e. you drive a stake in the ground on either side of the field (if that's even possible) and just create a lane where each of these rollers roll through.
It won't work in every single landmine, but it can provide a 'grid' within which you know what has been cleared and what has not.
May be harder with heavy / long lines / wind, but come on - we can build hanging bridges over very high canyons without anyone levitating to the other side first ;)
With that said, props to the designer for working on a solution to a difficult problem, but perhaps more domain knowledge would have lead him to a more suitable solution
This isn't to be used alone for clearing minefields - as it's not going to get 100% coverage.
It's still a useful tool for surveying minefields or perhaps doing a cheap first-pass before sending in pricey equipment
as others have pointed out:
- your goal is to clear an area, hence you need a systematic approach to be able to deem a strip of land safe. random paths do not help
- this identifies and detonates in one go. but if the mine does not get triggered, the identifier is lost. these are two separate tasks. merging them would only work with 100% detonation rate.
- this does not work against other types of explosives. anti-vehicle mines, unexploded ordnance, cluster ammo,...
the upside is definitely the low cost. the low effectiveness rate and unreliable pathing makes it lossy though. which with mines is not acceptable.
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Who writes this shit and thinks they're doing a good thing?
In practice the best way to clear most mines (to a military standard, which is far lower than civilian) seems to be explosively generated overpressure -- they launch a bunch of explosives, usually a linear charge, in the direction of travel, and it drops and blows up, clearing a path.
Using trained rats to clear mines (cheaper than dogs) seems to be the best upcoming way to meet the civilian standard. It's labor intensive, too, but most countries with landmines have relatively cheap labor, and the training to be a rat operator isn't as difficult as to be a full EOD tech. It's definitely one of the charities worth supporting.
I wonder if there is a way to make a more cylindrical version of this, which might follow a more predictable and controlled path through a minefield.
This got me thinking, could we train rats to locate landmines using their strong sense of smell? I googled, and it appears so. http://www.cnn.com/2012/02/13/world/americas/colombia-bomb-d...
Imagine if the park / playground / vacant land where you played as a child was mined and you witnessed others, perhaps your friends getting killed or severely maimed there. Such an issue would weigh heavily on you for a lifetime.
While we can't seem to ban war, many countries have joined a treaty banning landmines. That doesn't help with the ~100M unexploded mines in the world already. This is a bigger problem than one would ever imagine.
The ones that should join that treaty have not.
My country should not have joined. I'm from Finland. All that treaty ever did was to get rid of foot mines that we're designed to be planted around a heavy tank mine to make the whole deal difficult to disassemble. Now as our mines are easily disassembled, it just kind makes attacking here easier. So completely opposite outcome is very probable than what was intended.
My understanding is that manual, low-tech demining is not actually that dangerous. It requires some training and caution, but generally speaking anti-personnel mines aren't likely to do you much damage if approached carefully from the right angle.
Whereas the approach of getting machines to jump up and down randomly is expensive, likely to lead to a false sense of security and may even cause mines to get pushed into positions that make them more dangerous.
You could get a lot of Afghan workers enthusiastically doing low-tech demining for not that much money. Every now and again one of them would lose a finger or two but maybe that's not such a bad outcome considering the alternatives. People tend to get much more excited about expensive, higher tech solutions because they're sexier and the people who develop them (often the same people that made the mines in the first place) are better at selling them.
The semen would be spread out over an area and then wherever there was landmines it would turn red. The other area would stay green.
It even had Bill Clinton involved and through him UN.
Could it be that the sign is in Tajik and not Russian? (I speak neither of those languages, so I wouldn't know…)
The one on synthetic fuel was especially interesting:
A GPS chip built into the centre of the Mine Sweeper tracks
the device back to a website to chart a safe course.
Or you could just create a fleet of cheap ground stomping robots with armored feet designed to deflect the blast wave that are powered by cable and remotely controlled.
Seems like a promising approach. Does anyone know about this?
"Hauntingly beautiful" is now officially a cliche.
I miss it, too, but the overuse is crushing any significance it once had.
It wasn't long until the locals just farmed snakes to sell to the British.
Plus, retrieving landmines would be a pointlessly dangerous task, when all you really need to do is blow them up when nobody is around.
That would seem cheaper here too, and the still-alive goats can make milk.
(Many mines are also designed to be triggered under a certain weight, so goats can walk freely on them and not get hurt)
One interesting method I read about is seeding the area (from the air) with a certain flower. When it blooms, the contents of the ground affect the color, so on an aerial photo you could locate the mined areas.
Dedicated and skilled engineers best of course.
Thousands of lives saved by such simple engineering!