Robotics & Remote Sensing for Humanitarian Landmine Action

We’re pleased to be working with RAL Space and Cranfield University to bring robotics and space know-how to explore how to assist the humanitarian mine action sector with new technology and techniques to help make operations safer, more effective and efficient.


More information is provided below, and from the link here.

Sending robots where people fear to tread

A team of UK robotics experts have started a project that is going to investigate how Mars rover technology developed for space exploration could help land mine clearance experts and potentially save lives in the developing world.

​​Teams using manual detection techniques in Laos require a medic as part of the team due to the hazardous nature of such work.

Credit: John Fardoulis​

With an  estimated 110 million active land mines around the world today, the team led by the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s RAL Space and which includes engineers from Cranfield University and Fardoulis Robotics, aim to use their space know-how in exploring  the problem and offering potential solutions. Funded by the UK’s Global Challenge Research Fund the team are looking at the potential to develop existing drones, robotics systems and sensors to help with safer landmine surveying.

Landmines and other remnants of war continue to rob people of their lives and livelihoods. Lurking explosives can block the delivery of humanitarian assistance, stop children from going to school or farmers working on land, hampering reconstruction and reconciliation efforts.

Space technology has been developed specifically to operate in remote and harsh conditions while sending important data back to humans safely on Earth. Rovers like ESA’s Exomars rover have been developed to autonomously navigate the surface of Mars and collect and analyse samples. Meanwhile some planetary exploration and Earth observation satellites carry instruments on board which can detect trace chemicals in the ground.

Dr Rain Irshad, the autonomous systems group leader at RAL Space said, “We know we have versatile, cutting-edge technology and, alongside our partners, we have the heritage and expertise to adapt this technology for new uses. What we don’t know is exactly how best to help landmine clearance teams who do this day in and day out.”

The team hope that in collaboration with mine detection experts, these capabilities can be adapted into tools for more efficient and safer surveys of areas contaminated by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW).

To find this out the team will be working over the next year to establish partnerships with national authorities and NGOs to understand fully the requirements for land mine clearance in the field.

In Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, landmines and explosive remnants still contaminate many thousands of square kilometres of land following conflicts in the 1960s. As the population in these areas has increased dangerous land is needed more and more as pressure on food production, housing, water and other resources grows.

The team are also looking to work with local government, universities and industry in these countries, as well as international non-governmental organisations to fully understand the challenges of clearing explosives in order to work together on real solutions.

John Fardoulis from Fardoulis Robotics said, “I’m pleased to be part of a team of specialists in space technology and robotics, working toward humanitarian goals aimed at helping people in places where the devastating effects of landmines and ERW are still felt today.”

Prof Nabil Aouf, Head of the Signals and Autonomy Group at Cranfield University said, “Our expertise in intelligent sensing and autonomous systems linked to ground and aerial robotics complements the expertises of our partners in this program. The interaction with the end users from a number of third world countries dealing with landmines, will help us identify all technical requirements to develop new autonomous landmine detection vehicles capable of contributing well in this type of Humanitarian application .”