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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  • 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.



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

  • T3
    EasyStar typically ends about 450g lift INCLUDING batteries.
    Total flight endurance vs payload on page 5:
    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.
  • 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
    I think we should be clear about the ground station/laptop.
    It is needed for initial mission planning, post-flight data processing. It is important for flying only during development of UAVs for tuning. Properly designed UAV that doesn't need mission adjustment in flight, it flies by itself (yet almost all UAVs are military and almost all military like fast reaction and face changing challenges, hence one more reason for them use hell lot of ground-stations).
    It is a misconception you can do something fantastic with your laptop when your UAV is about to die.
    There are no such actions beyond visual range (even triggering a parachute is much more likely to succeed a simple automatic system), and within visual range you have your RC transmitter which is manufactured in hundreds of thousands and many more reliable than any laptop with a modem...

    Because everybody is developing, many are playing with, and few have made the product, there is common misconception the groundstation is necessary. It isn't, I fly my Flexipilot without the groundstation 99% of the time (partially because constant unpacking of the laptop and accessories and table is time consuming, also I am coming to the field to FLY, not to write software, hack waypoints etc).
  • Wayne , the solution in the website is impressive. But i learned a lesson today from site posted by Richard. It was :what was found wouldn't matter but what was missed does".!! you just have see few accident photos to realise that it is deminer who needs more protection and better / accurate tools. My heart goes for every deminer volunteer or payed. Also the solution in website you gave are good but looks like it will be beyond the expected budget and complexity . No single magical solution exist to take care of diverse challenges it is subjected to.
    Richard. I believe that the high stall landing works only when there is enough wind, I do it manually every time to show off when there is enough wind in the field that grounds most of guys there , I even do almost spot take off/VTOL in less than 5-8 feet with my nitro powered Cub if wind is good, constant and steady. The slider "Switch" that you are talking about which can change/choose around /north/south/east/west of you isn't as simple as you want/or atleast doesn't exist as you want IMHO( like press a button & choosing a preset cooking menu in microwave oven, However Gary gave a very good/practical way unless some one else designs hard switch jumper you can plug- in/choose mission during preflight prep and initializes( lock home) the uav , launch it . If you wish is to have such operations without using computer/laptop , i see hardtimes (just my personal opinion). Flight planning/programming is made much easy by usage of computer/laptop and one of important function of GCS software. look at various open source GCS that has/is available here in this forum, all your inhibition will disappear. In any case to download the photos from UAV digital camera , you will need a field laptop, so why fight it? Or did I read it wrong. Cheers
  • Hello,

    Many agriculture aerial applications with manned aircraft just use GPS and manual flight control... This question is for Agricultural specialist, not for UAV developers. You can also use GCP (ground control points) to do the georeference process, wothout any GPS on-board.

    Start with the customer and then construct the Unmanned System... that´s our mission at IDETEC
  • Admin
    Precision demonstrated here in mid air collision !! impressive waypoint following :)
  • We've done it at the Kaho`olawe range in Hawaii with both helicopter and fixed wing UAVs. We were looking for UXO (unexploded ordnance) from 50 years of target practice.

    What we found; .50 caliber bullets up to 16" projectiles.
  • T3
    This is a quite challenging task. I wouldn't recommend thermopile autopilot for the task before defining the zone where are you going to use it. Thermopiles are very sensitive to rain, dense fog and clouds. A failure when a droplet hits the eye of a sensor is immediate and very brutal (bad estimation of bank angle by anything between 10-90deg). They work absolutely perfectly when they work, but the step to non-working conditions is very brutal. This might call for IMU-based autopilot - since when putting a plate to a mission at the border of visual contact, you don't want to think if the tropical rain is already there or not.
    Normally I would recommend EasyUAV for the task, but I am hesitating
    because I believe the payload (camera protection) is insufficient for pro jobs requiring hard landings (the airframe is more survivable than anything else, but the camera protection might be tricky part).
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