Using ArduPilot as an aerial minesweeper?

I read in Aviation Week (Nov 16th issue) about the International Astronautical Federation and the Minseeker Foundation teaming up to study landmine detection from space. Landmines are a terrible leftover from war in many developing countries. There are an estimated 100 million landmines in the world, and they kill or maim 15,000 to 20,000 people each year. Many international organizations are working on ways to efficiently remove these landmines.

This got me thinking about the feasability of using an inexpensive UAV as a minesweeping platform.

The biggest hurdle, or course, is developing a payload that could detect landmines from the air. I figure if someone thinks they could do this from low earth orbit, they could make a smaller package that could do it from 100 feet. Does anyone know of anyone doing research into this sort of thing? Anyone have a grad student friend looking for a research project? I am sure there is research money out there to fund this sort of project.

What would be required from an aircraft perspective? Again the payload size and weight would ultimately dictate the airframe, propulsion, and other parameters. But what about the avionics? Could ArduPilot provide the navigation, sensor orientation and geolocation information with sufficient accuracy? Could it maintain a desired altitude above ground (using a laser or sonar altitude sensor)?

Is this just a science-fiction fantasy?

Tom

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Comment by Richard Smith on December 15, 2009 at 2:20am
Hi,
Some very interesting posts, Its clear there is a great deal of applicable technology available and possibly even some off the self systems. What I have described is my wish list for this project. I guess some will be deliverable, some (like the switch to select flight plans) may pose more of a challenge.

Some good points Morli, Its true that the use of a ground station can be minimized. When I looked at this project in association with ArduPilot I did notice that aircraft telemetry relating to the autopilot was one way only (downlink for monitoring) and that dynamic updating of flightplans or waypoints was not supported. This made it ideal for this application and rules it out for more dynamic surveillance/military style missions. For Humanitarian demining use this is an advantage due to some of the sensitive areas they have to work. A UAV that has fixed programming to survey a local area and will only ever land back at its launch point can not be used readily as a weapon or surveillance plane.

Its clear from the discussions that the key challenge to this project is recovery. This ideally has to be automatic. So here are the requirements that I can think of.

1.Landing area has to be assumed to be equivalent to concrete (worst case).
2.Can fit a parachute if payload permits, even a small one would make sure the UAV hits the ground the same way each time. I think this may be useful in making it robust enough.
3.Camera/electronics needs to be able to take the landing impact. This is the challenge.

The Skylark was fitted with an airbag that inflated on landing. Thats a bit extreme but I think some good out of the box thinking.

On the camera, I notice the dragonflyer Quadcopter uses a commercial Lumix camera. The vibration on that UAV will be much higher than the the powered glider I hope to use. Has anyone fitted any commercial stills cameras into an EasyStar? All I can find on the web are examples of micro video cameras.

T3
Comment by Krzysztof Bosak on December 15, 2009 at 11:19am
EasyStar typically ends about 450g lift INCLUDING batteries.
Total flight endurance vs payload on page 5:
http://www.aerialrobotics.eu/easyuav/easyuav-manual-en.pdf
In practical applications you can count on 20min flight time and 250g camera.
Sometimes 50g more or 10 min more depending how and where you fly.
This means portable camera plus 0.5x0.5km surface to be photographed from altitude 100-200m.
The curves are conservative compared to what it achieved during the trials, but medium winds, old batteries or non-aerodynamic payload will eat this 10-15% margin easily.
Comment by Paulino M. Lacap Jr. on September 22, 2013 at 12:44am

I am  also looking for a UAV based landmine detection system. Any leads on the sensors that maybe available?

Comment by Richard Smith on September 22, 2013 at 11:50am

Hi There, My original project had nothing to do with mine detection, it was an areal photography project to support mine field clearance.

I am sorry to say, there is no reliable areal mountable mine detection sensor available, If there was it would be used in a vehicle based system to detect mines at distance (meters) from a vehicle (easier because you don't have the weight/power limitations of a UAV). As far as I know no such system exists.

Sorry to pour cold water on the UAV mine detection idea, its just I think there are more profitable and achievable goals for UAV development without going for a (imho) currently impossible goal.

If you want a close approximation to the task then do the following:

1. Take a small tin of tuna from you local supermarket.

2. Bury it in a flower bed in a garden so it has a minimum of 20mm soil cover.

3. leave it undisturbed for a year, no gardening.

4. detect from a range of at least 2+m from your UAV.

5. Once you get that 100% reliable, replace the tin (DO NOT EAT THE TUNA) with a 20mm Panel pin nail and repeat.

I hope this puts the problem in some perspective.

Regards

Richard.

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