Landmines are the world’s worst serial killer. In 2014 alone, nearly 4,000 people were injured or killed by these explosive remnants of war. 80 percent of those victims were civilians. But the process of detecting and removing landmines can be slow, expensive, and dangerous. The Landmines Team of the JMU Drones project believes they’ve found a solution to this problem. Over the course of the semester, these students have built two drones designed to detect and detonate landmines. The first is equipped with a variety of interchangeable sensors that can detect anomalies beneath the earth. The second carries a box that uses air pressure and a steel plate to generate enough force to detonate dormant landmines. The Landmines Team believes these drones can make it safe to walk again for millions of people around the world.
On December 7, 2016 the Landmines Team finally got the opportunity to present their drones to the public at the 4VA Drones Class Showcase. It was a truly exciting event and a great way for the team to show off their hard work. The showcase was attended by professors, entrepreneurs, and everyday citizens who are interested in how drone technology can be used to solve a variety of issues. Other teams from James Madison University, Old Dominion University, and George Mason University were also present at the showcase, displaying projects that used drones to solve issues ranging from bee conservation to tidal flooding.
The showcase was a real learning experience for the Landmines Team. They were able to discuss their project with both experts and everyday people, and all the feedback they received was useful.
Most people were intrigued about the technology being used on the drones. They found the Team’s use of multiple different sensors to map out anomalies on the ground to be an innovative alternative to detecting landmines with human workers using only one sensor. They also enjoyed the Team’s detonation system, praising their ability to construct a device that could safely eliminate landmines with absolutely no need for human contact.
Many of the people the Team met with posed the same question: what’s the next step? The Landmines Team had been so caught up in getting their drones ready for the showcase, this question was something they hadn’t really considered. But the answer was fairly clear: with more funding and continued research, the Team could really take this project to the next level. More time, more money, a better drone, better sensors; these are all things that could make their drones the best demining tools on the market.
Finding people to invest in a project created by a bunch of twenty something college students may be difficult, but the Landmines Team feels like they have a product that could truly make the world a safer place. They’ve got all the building blocks, now all they need is support and time. With those two things, they could revolutionize the field of explosive detection and removal.