New tools for detecting landmines

New tools for detecting landminesOslo

Homemade landmines are an increasing threat in countries like Syria and Iraq. With support from Innovation Norway’s Humanitarian Innovation Programme, Norwegian People’s Aid has, in collaboration with Bertel O. Steen and the Italian division of CEIA, developed tools that can safely identify such mines.

Norwegian People’s Aid is a humanitarian organisation that works on mine clearance, disarmament, and humanitarian work internationally. It has noted an increase in the use of improvised explosive devices in areas of the Middle East.

These homemade mines are laid both inside and outside buildings and are triggered by thin tripwires that are almost impossible to see and that contain small quantities of metal. Since it is difficult for traditional metal detectors to find tripwires, both mine clearers and local communities are at great risk when explosives need to be made safe.

A bright idea

With advice and funding from Innovation Norway, Norwegian People’s Aid started carefully analysing the challenge before inviting business to a market dialogue. It discussed the existing solutions with the companies and what could be developed.

“Have you thought of light?” asked a representative of the Norwegian group Bertel O. Steen at the meeting.

Light is often used at crime scenes to find tiny strands of hair. Perhaps a special type of light could also be used to find tripwires that trigger mines.

With support from the Humanitarian Innovation Programme, Norwegian People’s Aid signed an innovation partnership agreement with Bertel O. Steen to develop a solution that uses light to make finding tripwires easier, and one with the Italian division of CEIA to develop a new type of metal detector that is more sensitive than current detectors.

Tested with great success

Solutions that were funded by Innovation Norway have now been tested in realistic settings with great success. The findings show that they significantly outperform the current equipment, both inside and outside buildings.

“The tests showed that mine clearers felt safer while carrying out the work and that the light solution is vital for safely clearing improvised explosive devices in buildings. This will increase our capacity and efficiency," says Kyaw Lin Htut, adviser on mine clearance and disarmament at Norwegian People’s Aid.

The equipment will now be bought in and put to use in Iraq, and they are also looking at using the tools in Syria and Ukraine.

An adviser in the Humanitarian Innovation Programme, Emilie Skogvang, points out that the innovation process that Norwegian People’s Aid has been through proves that it pays to do good preparatory work such that you understand the problem you are trying to solve before you develop a new solution.

“It is clear to us that the tools that have been developed have scaling potential, precisely because they satisfy a need and a market. It’s exciting to see that both the military and the police have demonstrated an interest in the new solutions,” says Skogvang.

  • Grant and advisory through Humanitarian Innovation program