This is the presentation by John Fardoulis of Mobility Robotics from April 22nd, 2021 during the ICRC and GICHD webinar on: The Use of Remote Sensing and AI in the Mine Action Sector.
The presentation takes an in-depth look at breakthroughs using thermal imaging to find buried landmines from small drones in a desert environment, plus a more general look at the state of small drone remote sensing in humanitarian mine action (HMA).
Breakthoughs took place as part of the Odyssey 2025 Project which was delivered together with Humanity & Inclusion/Handicap International, under the auspices of the High Commission for Deming in Chad, the HCND, funded by the Belgian Department of Foreign Affairs and the European Commission.
More than 100 million landmines and other items of explosive ordnace (EO) are still scattered around the world today, posing unspeakable threats to human and animal life. Such a devastating legacy of war maims and kills, stifles the capacity to produce food and blocks access to infrastructure and services including; schools, water, electricity and transport for decades after conflict has ceased. As a result, inequities are fostered and local communities fearing for their physical, economic and psycho-social well-being are further isolated.
A focus of the article was in presenting real world proof regarding how small drones could locate buried landmines in the Sahara Desert, Northern Chad using IR thermography. A breakthrough after more than 30 years of speculation regarding the potential for IR thermography as a technique for locating buried landmines in arid environments. The concept is not new, however – there has been a lack of real-world proof to back up claims, which was addressed in a second, editorial piece titled Time to Stem Lightweight Approaches and Focus on Real Minefield Data?
Pathways to Impact
Sharing learnings is important in terms of pathways to impact across the humanitarian mine action (HMA) sector, leveraging funding from the donor, the Belgian Department of Foreign Affairs beyond a single project. Ideally acting as a catalyst that prompts future breakthroughs from many different HMA operators in arid (and perhaps semi-arid) environments to help beneficiaries around the world.
This was a milestone article, creating a new state-of-the-art in knowledge – in practical, field-ready, real-world ways. Ideally kickstarting activities that save lives and limbs, accelerating the land release process, and enabling better productivity at a scale of millions of dollars a year.
The choice of journal was important, as the JCWD spans beyond academia, with extensive reach across the HMA sector – which will resonate at all levels in HMA, from technical specialists in the field through to head office managers, and donors. Peer reviewers for journal were also HMA subject matter specialists, critiquing in practical, relevant ways.
One of the fulfulling parts of the Odyssey 2025 Project was that results were not achieved alone. John Fardoulis/Mobility Robotics took the HMA project partner, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) along a journey that achieved ground-breaking results. The High Commission for Demining (HCND) in Chad and national staff were also important partners along the journey, with a drone programme implemented in a country without any regulations for using such equipment.
The following 10 minute presentation provides an overview, including examples of methodology developed by Mobility Robotics together with HI.
The Odyssey 2025 Project in Chad ended in March 2020, meaning that it is time to create new projects, in new countries. Trailblazing and creating operational capacity in post-conflict zones – making a difference to the world in challenging, often hazardous environments.