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BBC Scotland's Morag Kinniburgh reports
"The inventors say it can plot the position of anti-personnel devices faster and more accurately than any exisiting method"
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Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Landmine detector not just hot air
Artist's impression of the Mineseeker
The Mineseeker is carried on board an airship
Scientists have unveiled a prototype, hi-tech, radar system which they hope will revolutionise the detection of land mines.

Researchers say the device, which is fitted to an airship which flies above minefields, will be capable of mapping the position of anti-personnel mines thousands of times faster than conventional methods.

The Mineseeker system, jointly developed by a team of researchers from the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera) and the University of Dundee, has already been tested in Britain.

The clever part is to discriminate which signals come from anti-personnel mines

Dr Paul Smith

Landmines litter former battlefields around the world and kill or maim up to 25,000 people every year.

It is estimated 70 million mines are still active - mostly in developing countries.

The scientists hope the Mineseeker system will be able to go some way to reducing that figure.

Dr Paul Smith, one of the team which developed the prototype at Dundee University, attended the system's launch during the Euro Electromagnetics conference in Edinburgh.

Electromagnetic pulse

Dr Smith said: "It is, I think, the very first method that can do large area clearance of anti-personnel mines, the particular mines that have largely plastic or almost completely plastic components to them which are so difficult to detect."

Mineseeker uses a specialised radar which can distinguish between mines and rocks and boulders by firing "pulses" of electromagnetic waves lasting less than a billionth of a second at the ground.

Dr Paul Smith
Dr Paul Smith hopes the device will save lives
"The clever part is to discriminate which signals come from anti-personnel mines," said Dr Smith.

"The landmine changes the shape of the pulse, giving it a special signature and what we are looking for is that distinctive change in the signals reflected back to the antenna.

"The computer processing of these signals produces an image that enables us to 'see'."

This is the first time details of the system have been made public since Sir Richard Branson said earlier this year he was helping with a "breakthrough" in mine detection technology.

Worldwide, mines kill or maim about 500 people a week - one every 10 minutes.

It was an issue which was brought to the world's attention by Diana, Princess of Wales, shortly before her death when she travelled to Angola and walked through a minefield.

She called for a worldwide ban on the explosive devices and backed a motion to the United Nations calling for the destruction of such weapons, which was passed after her death.

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See also:

18 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Landmine victims dazzle Ginola
17 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Ginola unveils landmine website
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