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Robot Mine Smasher 199

A reader writes " Robotsotre had a link to a Japanese story about a new landmine-hunting robot that covers the mine with a protective dome and then smashes it with a high-velocity hydraulic piston. The company's called Cos Co, the robot is 3.5m long, and the cost about $75K (USD). Robot mine hunter does job quietly Not that I know much about landmines, but does this mean the detonator cap is smashed without detonating? Or separated from the explosives before it can?" As this article also points out, this will help remove mines in Afghanistan, which after 20 years of war has more then a few around.
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Robot Mine Smasher

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  • Great news (Score:1, Insightful)

    by XiC ( 207670 )
    Good to hear this is really what tech is surposed to do.
    • Re:Great news (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zoccav ( 242377 )
      Good to hear this is really what tech is surposed to do.

      I understand and appreciate your positive statement.

      However, I disagree on your words. IMO tech is supposed to be constructive. Both the mines and the robot aren't.

      Although it's a good thing that probably less people will get mutilated by mines with this robot, I dread the instant where laying mines becomes a less severe crime because of the robot.
  • by gTsiros ( 205624 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:01AM (#3006172) mindstorms!!!

    forget the robotic lego rubik cube solver! This is the REAL DEAL!

    Imagine small khaki-colored legos going into actual battle.

    -the lego death squad


    • Imagine small khaki-colored legos going into actual battle.

      -the lego death squad

      I'm thinking "fluffy bunnies" from "Full Throttle".... *evil grin*
      • by Gid1 ( 23642 ) <> on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:23AM (#3006232)
        I can't remember who, but someone suggested killing two birds with one stone: when the British government is slaughtering herds/flocks/whatever of cows/sheep/whatever for possibility of BSE/Foot-n-Mouth/whatever, just get them to send the animals to graze in a minefield, instead =)
        • It's a card game from Cheapass Games called Unexploded Cow []

          From the site:
          You and your friends have discovered two problems with a common solution: Mad Cows in England and Unexploded Bombs in France. You've decided to bring these two powderkegs together just to see what happens. And you wouldn't say "no" to a little money on the side. So round up your herd, march them through France, and set them loose behind the Cordon Rouge. If you're lucky you'll come home rich before Greenpeace gets hold of you. Either way, there's something magical about blowing up cows.
    • by isaac_akira ( 88220 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:57AM (#3006335)
      Everytime the bot gets blown up they can just snap it back together.

      Though in solving the problem of stepping on landminds you will be CAUSING the problem of stepping on Lego pieces while walking barefoot through the fields at night. "Ouch!! Goddammit!!!"
  • silly way.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by thorgil ( 455385 )
    Why detonate the mine when you can put it on fire without any explosion.
    Most explosives can burn without exploding.
    A simple burning bullet might do the trick.
    The problem is often not disarming the mine but finding it.

    • ok... the piston-method might not detonate the mine but in a lot of cases, landmines have some sort of quicksilver-trigger to make it boobytrapped.
      Hitting such a mine will surely detonate it.
      (if speed 3 m/s)

      More sofisticated anti-tank mines, with magnetic field response etc, buried deep down will be quite hard to hit with the piston.

    • Re:silly way.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hoyceman ( 452009 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:35AM (#3006266)
      Having spent some time learning bomb disposel myself when I was in the military, that statement is not entirely true. What an explosive needs to detonate is heat and pressure, so a burning bullet will make it explode. If you place plastic explosive in a fire, it does just bubble and smoke, but if you hit it with a hammer(or a bullet) while it is in the fire it will detonate.

      As far as destroying the mines with a hydrolic piston, there are plenty of types of land mines that I know of where this would be a great solution. Lots of land mines aren't created to take a lot of shock, and one way the army can dispose of them is by setting our own explosive charges. If you could hit the land mine fast enough and in the right spot this could be a great way to do it.

      Lastly, I can also think of a few types of landmines where this isn't going to work at all. And unless it uses a density sensor instead of a metal detector it might not even pick up a wider range of mines. There are more wooden and plastic landmines with no metal in them than people would think. So overall I think it's a good idea, but shooting it with a burning bullet is asking for trouble.
      • Finally, someone who knows what they are talking about.

        Finding the unexploded ordnance is the tricky bit, but it's nice to know the demolition/deactivation tech is being developed. I also heard about a high-pressure water disruptor cannon for bomb disposal a couple of years ago, so this must be the same principle? (ie: smash device before it can trigger and detonate)

        Of course the REAL reason land mines are so costly to remove is because they are usually deployed without ANY thought to how they will be recovered.

        Putting aside the issue of civilian casualties, the forces who deploy these weapons should be responsible for paying for their clean up. Maybe they they'd keep better deployment records and maps, and avoid the use of air-deployed mines.

        I can only think of a few ways in which you could use mines legitimately (Fort Knox, nuclear power stations, max. security prisons, etc.) and only then when they are in areas that are clearly marked. Putting mines in areas used by civilians is negligent to the point of evil.

        • HUH?! (Score:2, Flamebait)

          by BLKMGK ( 34057 )
          Only a few places where they can be used legitimately? Try WAR! Have we gotten so damned PC that we're squeemish about war? What's next, we don't actually kill our enemies we put them in cushy prisons instead? Oh wait, we do that don't we?

          Sorry, but if we're at WAR with enemies then lay mines if that's what you must do to stop an opposing force. If a civilian gets killed then that really sux but I'd prefer a civilian than one of our soldiers.

          After the war when the mines must be removed then by all means it's nice to have maps but if they were laid in haste then we'll deal with that when the time comes. Does that suck for places like Afghanistan? Yes, it does but we can't all live in a fluffy bunny world where everyone is afraid to offend much less hurt an enemy (rolleyes). In a WAR I can think of LOT'S of proper places to put mines....
          • Re:HUH?! (Score:3, Informative)

            Ironically, landmines are no longer very effective other than at maiming and killing civilians. If your goal is to harass the civilian population, they're a great weapon -- cheap, easy to make, hard to detect. If you're fighting a military campaign, they're of limited usefulness. Even Stormin' Norman Schwartzkopf signed an open letter to the president urging the ban of anti-personnel mines, an action "not only humane but militarily responsible".

            And it's not just Afghanistan and our current enemies affected, either. Places like Angola, Mozambique, Cambodia, etc. are littered with them.

            Learn more about landmines, where they are, military alternatives to them, and more at Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation [] through their Campaign for a Landmine Free World.

          • If a civilian gets killed then that really sux but I'd prefer a civilian than one of our soldiers.

            That's a pretty fucked up attitude, if you ask me. The military is supposed to be protecting the civilian population, and soldiers have accepted the risk as part of their job -- civilians have not.

      • >What an explosive needs to detonate is heat and pressure

        Also having served as an Ammo guy in the US Marine Corps, I thought it was friction and heat. Not that there is much differance anyway..
      • I always thought that plastic explosive's big selling point was that it used an electrical trigger. You can drop it, throw it, mould it in to any shape you want and it won't go off... not until you run an electric charge through it. I even thought you could shoot it and it wouldn't explode. Or is it the combination of fire *and* pressure that sets it off in this case?

        Just curious.
        • Plastic explosive, like C4 or Semtex, needs a blasting cap to set it off. The blasting cap can be triggered by a variety of methods, heat, shock or electricity. You can use plastic explosives as fuel for a fire, such as heating meals while out on patrol. The problem is that heating the explosive makes it more sensitive to shock.
    • A couple of points: I don't think that they're going to detonate the mine - $10,000 is a lot to pay for a suicidal robot.

      Many expolosives do indeed burn without exploding, including most of the types used in this kind of application: On the other hand the type of explosive used in the detonator or percussion cap (such as lead styphnate) will most certainly not burn without exploding and it will then set off the main charge as is its job. Set fire to this and you might as well detonate the sod.

      On the other hand (and I'm guessing here that they mean 3 km/s and NOT 3m/s as 3 m/s isn't very fast at all, about a fast walk) if you smash the mine into little pieces very fast then the flash (if any) from the cap won't be able to sufficiently ignite the charge to go kaboom.

  • "Fast" "hammer"? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cyclops ( 1852 ) <> on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:03AM (#3006178) Homepage
    They say "The hammer can strike mines at velocities of up to three meters per second.".

    So, that's 3m*60s*60m = 10800m/h = 10.8 km/h.

    That's fast? I smell some misinformation in here.

    • The parent comment is currently at (Score:0, Troll). It is not a troll, it is completely accurate.

      From the article:

      The mine is then crushed by a hydraulically operated hammer positioned beneath the cowl, but it does not explode, because of the hammer's high velocity, the company said. The hammer can strike mines at velocities of up to three meters per second.

      That cannot be correct. A metre or meter is roughly a yard, so "three meters per second" is about 9 feet per second. By comparison, the bullet from a .45 acp, one of the slowest rounds fired from modern firearms, can do 1000 feet per second or more, and many rifle rounds will break 3000fps. Shooting mines is known to set them off, not to disarm them safely because of the high velocity of the bullet. "Three meters per second" is simply not high velocity, by any standard that would seem to fit the context.

      This could be a typo, a translation error, or simply a case of information having been mangled by a reporter who didn't have a clue what he was talking about, but it definately does look like some incorrect information.

      As to the moderation of the parent post... be looking for this joker on meta-mod folks. And if you have mod points today, bump it up a point or two please.

      • It's been a while since I took Physics, but I would like to know what the momentum of this device. A bullet has a small mass so the momentum generated by the explosion can cause fast speeds. But trying to move a heavy object fast nearly instantly is more of a challenge. Hence cars that can accelerate from 0 to 60 in however many seconds makes some people water in their mouths.

        If the hammer weights at least 100 times that of a bullet with a velocity of 3 meters per second, the momentum exceeds that of a bullet. If I am doing the math correctly in my head. ;)

        But I seem to remember stories pop up every couple of months with a new land mine detection/removal system. And I haven't seen anything about the 50 to 100 million land mines around the world being removed. (I got that number from Scientific America Frontier on PBS last night. I couldn't believe it. But if you can't trust PBS, who can you trust?)
      • They could be meaning 3 miles / second. But that seems equally improbably since it equates to 10800mph, or ~ mach 15
    • That is roughly the speed a hammer would be falling after you dropped it 1/2 a meter. If this 'hammer' has a fair amount of mass then it will definitly have enough force to set off the mine. Of course I don't think the purpose of this device is to shatter the mine.

    • Awhile back there was a bit of research into high speed projectiles for busting up concrete. The soft plastic projectile was accelerated by helium piston (about 3 meters tall) downward. When striking it was able to cleanly break a piece of concrete in excess of 1foot thick.

      The technology of getting ultra high speed projectiles over short distance isn't anything new- have you ever seen what a 3 mile/sec plastic ring can do to a block of aluminum (sorry, this photo sticks in my head) - it peeled it back like the shots of Doc Edington did in Stopping Time - a 1foot x 1foot x 1foot block was about 80% empty after the impact.

      So getting the speeds aren't that terribly difficult and firing the 'bullets' only would need gas and a way of powering the ultrasonic pressure waves....

      We just aren't used to having items travel that fast ;P Just remember- it's over a very short distance, so air resistance doesn't start to build up.
    • You see if you can strike a landmine with a hammer faster :-)
    • Yes, it's fast. Fast for hydraulic systems. If you've ever used hydraulically-driven equipment, you'll have some idea of how fast rams normally move at (10cm/s, kind of thing).
    • Police bomb squads have been using remotely controlled devices outfitted with special "high velocity" shotguns for years. Although I'm no bomb expert (but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last night), the concept is that a special high velocity round can basically destroy the mine/explosive before it has a chance to set itself off.

      Contrary to what most folks think, modern high explosives aren't particularly easy to set off. You can pinch off a piece of C4, light it with a match, and it will burn peacefully enough to boil some water for coffee. It can only be detonated with a detonator, and the detonator itself is designed so that it can only be triggered as designed, not by dropping it, smashing it, or burning it. Obviously this doesn't hold true for all explosives or all detonators, but the military stuff I was around in the Marines could be handled as if it were no more dangerous than Play-Doh. Mines are even more complex, where you have a trigger that activates a detonator, the detonator activates a booster charge, the booster charge may even activate yet another booster charge (think anti-tank mines), and finally the main charge is detonated. Interrupt any one of these processes and the mine suddenly becomes a doorstop.

      My guess is that the velocity figure in the article are off somehow, as the quoted specs are far too slow to do much of anything except set the mine off. A small, extremely high velocity slug put in exactly the right place would disrupt the mine. A slow, heavy blow would seem to be a good recipe for setting it off.
  • It won't be long before the house robots on robot wars join forces with this creation to form an unstoppable force. As long as the enemy forgets to dig a flame pit, and are slower than 5 mph.....

    • Robot Wars got boring when it became apparaent that a small wedge shaped robot with self righting capabilities and loads of torque would beat anything.
      • Robot Wars got boring when it became apparaent that a small wedge shaped robot with self righting capabilities and loads of torque would beat anything.

        True, however what happens when a small wedge shaped robot with self righting capabilities and loads of torque met another small wedge shaped robot with self righting capabilities and loads of torque?
        • True, however what happens when a small wedge shaped robot with self righting capabilities and loads of torque met another small wedge shaped robot with self righting capabilities and loads of torque?

          The universe implodes in a puff of logic.
  • How does it move? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smaughster ( 227985 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:10AM (#3006196)
    One of the things that I miss is how such a robot would move around. Mines usually aren't all hidden in easy accesible places on a road, so how does this droid come to the mines? Let's hope that the test version did not count on human beings carrying it. I can already imagine 10 people lifting this piece of iron, lugging it towards the mines when suddenly one of them hears a click under his foot.

    "Sorry Jim, but we're going to defuse the bomb through your foot. This will only hurt a bit."

    • Mines usually aren't all hidden in easy accesible places on a road

      Are you sure? Wouldn't it make sense to mine roads and open areas where tanks, jeeps, misc vehicles and troops will march in a column, or supply routes? No one is going to stick lots of mines in places no one else will walk on. Granted there probably are a lot of mines off the roads and open areas, but I think the vast majority would be accessible to a robot.
  • by hyoo ( 155460 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:16AM (#3006214)

    The company has a webpage here [] but they don't have an article/photos (at least in the engrish [] section of their site). Anyone read Japanese?

  • but how does it locate the mines, and how fast? If I remember correctly the most cost-effective method of removing mines is training local personel for the job. Although this costs $$$ and takes *lots* of time I can't imagine a $75K beeing more cost effective.. And, at he bottom line it's all about $$, right? (Corrections wanted, needed and apreciated) -Typos added for xtra effect
    • Most landmines are not used as a military tool to control and canalize oposing forces movement but rather at a genocide/terror device. Because of this many of these landmines, lets include crude booby-traps, man-traps, and command detonated devices here for General purposes, are installed with anti-handleing devices and used in a drop and run mode. Mine-field clearence is a particularly hazardous duty and requires extensive training.

      Mines are normaly detected by sweeping an area with a mine detector, metalic detectors detect the magnetic annomlies created by the presence of metal in the ground, the same as civilian coin detectors people use to fine change and rings lost on the beach.

      Non-metalic mine detectors, use radio or microwaves to detect variations in ground density, most landmines are made of plastic, as the predonomiate material today. Think soaped up electrinic stud detector here.

      Finaly mines are detected by probing with a stick or aluminum tent stake (many anti-vehicle mines also have a magnetic detonator) by hand, this is very dangerous and usualy only done afeter a sweep by one of the above detectors. When doing a clearence operation a lane 18-24 inches wide is worked at time; it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that clearing an acre takes a long time. If the robot can clear a 4 foot lane, and go ten times faster than a man crawling on hes belly, pushing a stick into the ground 3 inches apart, it'll turn an impossible job into a do-able job.

      Also remember this is not just something that's dones in far-away places; Military bases often have artilery impact area, and not all shells that are shot explode on impact, a miniscule number just go thud. These unexploded shells just sit there in the ground with detonators that just need an nth more to detonate. Add some nut riding an motorcycle, where he shouldn't be and runs one over and somebody is dead.
      Replying to an other post, yes theroretical most military explosive can be burned without exploding, miliatary explosives are much less sensitive than civian explosive. They need a hotter primer than civian explosives, in act a civialian detonator probably won't set off military explosives, DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!!! but shooting them with incideary bullets also addd physical compression and may cause an explosion, or worst, just high sensitize the explosives!

      $75K is cheap compared to training costs, manpower costs, and more importantly costs of loss-of-life and limb and medical costs.
  • Did anyone find information on what this cover is all about? I don't know about the rest of you, but I just had a vision of a lego man covering a landmine with a hankerchief before hitting it with a hammer. So I wonder what exactly the cover is made of.
  • Even if one blows up by accident it will have been less expensive than loosing a trained soldier. Seriously though, my brother who is in the Army Reserves here in Canada (we have an Army?) took a three-week basic trainning course. Apparently the course cost the Canadian government $30 000 CDN (currently 18,869.11 USD thanks to Bloomberg []) for each to-be-infantry-unit. The scary thing is that it's only the first of several courses which get him to the rank of private (the lowest rank in case you didn't know.) I can't image what the cost is for the highly-trained enlisted men, especially the engineers who continue to search for landmines in person.

    As always, and more importantly than cost, if it can save lives, it's a worthwhile piece of gear. It will be interesting to see, if these robots are a success, just how much the units, the robots are "posted to," mod their little mine finders. "Mine serves beer too!" (It's even a pun! Forgive me.)

  • could this be the beginning of the end of landmines? think about it, if this robot works as well as claimed, military forces will probably be quick to integrate what appears to be inexpensive technology into anything they can. if tanks have this tech built into the front or underside of the vehicle then they could just roll right over landmines. further, footsoldiers could be equipped with the detection aspect of the system and perhaps eventually a variant of the 'smashing' technology itself.

    so at that point (sometime in the future obviously), why bother buying and placing landmines that are totally ineffective against military forces? I'm not a big fan of war, so I'm not sure that unstoppable ubertanks are a great idea, but then again I'm not so sure about many of the militarys' plans and ideas. At any rate, the elimination of landmines and the elimination of their use would be a great thing for civilians.

    in case you didn't know its usually civilians who end up finding the land mines. Actually, I have a doctor friend who travels to areas heavily ridden with landmines in order to teach reconstructive medicine [] because so many civilians not only find the mines, but are then unable to recieve proper medical care.

    there are also some graphic pictures there of various other trauma he teaches reconstructive medicine in relation to, so be forewarned. and hit up my website and download some music that I am paying these stinky bandwidth bills for while you are at it!

    riaa untouched. no login required. advertisement free.
    • Problem is, antipersonnel mines cost like 1 cent each. For each of these fancy things you buy, I can buy bazillions of landmines. Sad but true...
    • The United States and UK already have tanks for clearing mine lanes.

      The US uses an M-1 with a set of front and angled front plows with angled tops so all of the blast is shunted foreward. So you take 3 of these and clear a lane.

      The Royal Engineers came up with a rocket powered harpoon with a length of detcord that they used to clear lanes in the Gulf War.

      This system will be good for places with widly scattered mines and mine fields after hostilities, but in places where there are still active fields that are mapped and maintaned, like the Korea DMZ, this will not be an effective breaching tool for any operational military.
  • Article says the detection is optical.

    That's cool. But not all AP mines have a probe above ground AFAIK. Modern types have minuscule amounts of metal in the detonator to boot, too.

    I don't think that looking for turned earth in any warzone's going to get you very far.. So just how is the mine detection gear supposed to work? Xray?
    • For mines that aren't above ground it wouldn't be too difficult to stick a millimeter wave or small doppler radar unit on the front and change a software module. Voila you've got a robot that can see a couple feet below the surface of the ground. While this still isn't going to see EVERYTHING it gives you a bit more flexibility and lets you at least find the mines. Small dopplar radar units are used by archeologists and paleontologists to find artifacts or fossils shallowly buried in dirt. Even if the robots could provide a good mine map of an area it would save some lives or limbs.
  • Considering the amount of mines in existence and the variation of terrain the only sensible method would have to be from the air.

    To prevent further mines being used it would help if the companies that made the components were publicly listed so we could choose wether or not buy theirs or their subsiduaries products (ICI? for example). Same goes for banks that fund dictators. Instead of the press saying this person is bad they should name the bank funding them with loans thus empowering the public to actually do something about it i.e take their business elsewhere. Without bank loans no countrye can afford a modern war. Welcome to ethical business.

  • Sounds like Battlebots has got a new contender for next season..

    Now, what are they gonna name it? Defuzor? Super Happy Fun CrushBot?
  • by bjornte ( 536493 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:30AM (#3006250)
    Having several colleagues that are trained Product Design Engineers, and therefore used to thinking "a product will solve the problem", I'll share their experience in this field. HI-TECH PRODUCTS ARE NOT THE SOLUTION IN THIS CASE. ANY kind of techy product is crap.

    I'm a tech guy myself and a /. reader to prove it, but when it comes to disarming mines one must turn to other means. Reason:

    1. The machine will very likely get stuck in the not-so-ideal terrain mines are dug into.
    2a. There are no good logistics for things like spare parts, fuel etc in third-world, mine-ridden countries.
    2b. A techy machine is very valuable as, exactly, spare parts. Therefore, it will be looted rather than used as intended. example A large European aluminium manufacturer made studies of using aluminium beams in Catastrophe Shelter Housing. It became obvious that the alum would create riots, and therefore, one had to use bamboo. Good for India, bad for Big Industry.
    3. Third-world labour is M-U-C-H cheaper than industrialised-world labour. To design, manufacture, deploy, operate, service and even protect an anti-mine machine, whatever the kind, requires tenfold the resources than paying unemployed, higly motivated locals to do the job. The job is ACTUALLY not very dangerous if education and overseeing is done properly.
    4. Auto-mine-cleaners remove a smaller percentage of the mines than human workers. Therefore, it is NOT SAFE to enter an area that has been "cleaned" by machines.

    What REALLY PISSES ME OFF is that industrialised countries makes easily-digestable "foreign aid budgets" by giving domestic industry R&D money that can never be translated into a better situation for the ones that really need it. Check out the way your Foreign Aid is distributed, Americans. It sucks, big time, and sadly, that makes the rule rather than the exeption.

    • Too bad I'd much rather see the money spent on domestic R&D then just paid directly to the foreigners....or rather to the foreign dictators who are responsible for the mess to begin with.
    • The job is ACTUALLY not very dangerous if education and overseeing is done properly.

      This is total Bull Shit... please go ask a few Army Engineers about their job and ask them if its "not very dangerous".

      Hey look! I poke a stick at mines all day hoping I wont accidently just miss and later step on it! Or I use a medal detector ... but the mines might be plastic and not set it off, damn I stepped on one!
      • "medal" should be "metal"
      • If I recall correctly: The Norwegian People's Help, or whatever their English name is, has had four thousand third-world workers on the payroll since 1996 and has lost six lives. I might have the details wrong but the statistics were surprisingly good. Point is, it's very cost-effective to use local workers, especially considering the usual alternative: to stay unemployed, unable to harvest from the countryside, not to mention being worried sick about their kids picking up shiny-looking stuff from the ground.
        • I think it's better to spend millions of dollars on a technical solution than to loose six people to mines.

          In the Gulf War, 11 of the US dead were lost to mines or clearing mines in southern Iraq or Kuwait.

      I think Hobarts Funnies prove otherwise, because Tech solutions are designed to save lives not money.

  • What about magnetic mines. I mean there are combination mines that are both for personal and anti vehicle use (disgusting, right). These mines can be stepped on for explosion, also they feel vehicles by the magnetic mechanism and explode.

    That could be a problem if the robot is not constructed in material other that metal.
  • by Migx ( 551367 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:31AM (#3006256) Homepage
    Like USA, who refused to sign the paper concerning that issue. But then again it's an republican president now, meaning WEAPONS WEAPONS... like that stupid anti missile shield, when everybody know that the most dangerous attacks come from actions inside the country not outside, like Olkahome, Wold trade center etc etc ..... hmm i'm going off topic in here so I will just shut up :)
    • by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @10:15AM (#3006674)
      The reason the US refused to sign the ban on land mines is because they refused to give an exemption for the Korean DMZ. The United States and RoK have between 2-3.5 million miles in the DMZ, and since the North Koreans refused to sign it, it was...

      1. A tactical liability to remove the mines
      2. An expensive and time consuming prospect in a potentionally hostile area.

      The Anti-Missile Shield isn't meant to defend against airplanes or Ryder trucks with explosives, it's to defend against North Korean and Chinese missiles, both nations are working on or have ICBMs that can hit the US, but are in such small numbers that the ABM system would be a good defense. I think the US plan is to get into a spending race with China and bankrupt them like the US did to the Soviets. Having the ABM system will let the US start to pair down the number of ICBMs and SLBMs as well. And it'll advance the science of small, G resistant rocket systems.
  • Banning land mines (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmileyBen ( 56580 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:32AM (#3006257) Homepage
    How sad then, that America has almost single-handedly prevented the banning of anti-personnel land mines, principally because it is afraid of losing its ability to interfere in Korea.

    ...not laying them in the first place is a lot more cost / effort / human-life efficient than removing mines once you have...
    • Especially since mines kill indescriminately, even while they are "in use."

      I haven't seen one yet with a bad-guy-detector on it.

    • How sad then, that America has almost single-handedly prevented the banning of anti-personnel land mines, principally because it is afraid of losing its ability to interfere in Korea.

      that and they are a high profit item, or so I hear...

      riaa untouched. no login required. advertisement free.
    • by Psiren ( 6145 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:55AM (#3006330)
      So whats new? America have been practising one thing and preaching another for years. Weapons and War seem to be an almost staple diet. The whole country is screwed up. Hey, its okay for young kids to own handguns, but hell, we don't want security cameras filming the public, that would just be an invasion of privacy.

      Yeah, I'm, trolling. Yeah, I'll be modded down. But I still think America is fucked up.
      • Yeah, you're trolling. Yeah, you should be modded down. Way to go off topic and try to derail discussion due to your personal vendetta against America *rolls eyes*
        • It's hardly a personal vendetta. I know a lot of people who think the same. And going off topic is par for the course around here. See, I'm doing it again. :P~
      • a teen should get laid, or even learn how use a condom. I've said it before, I'll say it again: until we are willing to admit that getting it on is a better use of a person's time than wandering the woods or streets with a firearm, we"re going to stay an expletived-up country.

        Of course, maybe I'm just bitter because I've had such little success in this area of my life, and the good Commander just destroyed my "but I'm a geek" excuse. Damnit, Taco...Mazel Tov again, by the way :-).
      • not laying them in the first place is a lot more cost / effort / human-life efficient than removing mines

      This report for the US army [] reckons that the best compromise is to fit an independent 2nd fuse on every item of ordnance, based purely on the cost measured pragmatically in terms of US military casualties from friendly UXO, let alone civilian casualties.

      I don't know about the follow up, but I expect that it failed the up-front-cost laugh test based on the simple observation that your ordnance is usually dropped on the other guy in a dusty country, so who gives a damn. Not us, obviously. :(

    • There's a *huge* difference in the way a structured, organized and trained military uses land mines and the way rival warlords and basic thugs use them.

      US Army doctrine is *very* anal about landmines. You don't just turn one on and chuck it down with a chuckle.

      For one, mines fields are generally surface laid. That's right, just sitting there in the open. Why, because US doctrine always covers minefields with a second method of fire (artillary, snipers, etc). When the war is over, you go out and collect up your mines.

      Secondly, most modern mines are self detonating. That means in a set amount of time -- usually 4 hours to 2 weeks -- they go away. They're also surface laid (usually by aircraft). Don't stand near these mines.

      Fianlly, if you do hide your mines that need to be completly mapped and documented. Why? Because YOU may be the one to remove them.

      Remove them? Yes, all US mines are designed to be removed. Not so for the Soviet ones, oh dear.

      Look at were there are mine problems, Cambodia, Afganistan, Kuwait, Korea. Only one of those is the fault of the US and guess what, those mine in those old-style "standard pattern" minefields are completly mapped.

      In Cambodia and Afganistan, you can blame those poor starving peasants who, rather that wanting peace, would rather torture and mame each other. Plant random mines in a farm field, yeah, good idea. (um, not).

      Finally, Kuwait. Kuwait doesn't have a much of a mine problem (relative to the others), why? They have money. But who do you blame for what mines they have? The Iraqis, duh. That finely tuned military machine that couldn't fight there way out of a paper bag laid crap loads of mines all over the place with no care as to where they were.

      So this BS about the US not wanting to follow Diana's dream is a little misplaced.
      • So what about unexploded cluster bombs, Army poster boy?
        • unexploded cluster bombs

          Both the parent and the grandparent post were talking about land mines not un-exploded ordinance. The parent post was a contrast between america's use of land mines and the practices of various other mine-deploying entities. UXO is another issue, one that was not part of this thread

          • Still unexploded cluster bombs are equivalent to land mines in hazard to civilians and the way they are disposed of. Thus they are very much on topic (clearing mines with or without robots) and counter the argument "the US Armed Forces places its mines humanely and should be allowed to do so in the future, so fuck the International ban on APMs".
            • You can't even hold your own argument together. Cluster bombs are irrelevent to (and I quote you) "the US Armed Forces places its mines humanely".

              And it would be incumbent upon you to explain why (accidentally) unexploded ordinance is (morally) identical to (deliberately placed and subsequently removed) mines. It's not trivially obvious, there's a big intent difference there.

              You can prove anything by dragging in emotion-laden tangential issues.

              (Note I haven't said whether I agree or disagree with you, so comments attacking my unstated and unknown-by-you personal beliefs will be met with extreme derision.)
              • Well, they may be, but the tactics used are not. The fact that cluster bombs often don't explode on impact is known, still the American military gives shit about "Collateral Damage", and drops them near civilian targets anyway - when their targetting works and they don't hit civilian targets directly.

                I reapeat: even if the US Armed Forces (joint) claim they use mines only so that they can be removed easily, they A) still don't care about civilians when using other weapons (and since they claim they do - there goes my confidence in the mines claim) and B) still shouldn't block the international treaty based on it, especially when they still sell those mines to others - don't tell me they say they don't.

  • by Apuleius ( 6901 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:41AM (#3006283) Journal
    Some of the minefields there were hit by massive
    floods recently. Now the mines are shifted,
    so mine maps are no good, and they're oriented
    every which way. Build a robot that can
    handle that, and you will prove yourself a
    major stud.
  • Interesting. If the detonator were destroyed inproperly, made unstable, you would end up with a more deadly less predictable mine. I hope it works, but lets not beta test it on people who need human support too. A human would have to deal with the un-detonated mine that has a broken fuse, if the shell is cracked the explosives are potentially very unstable.

    OK, the article was a bit light so the above could be making five from two plus two.
  • Funny how /. posters are poo-pooing the alleged robot. Since no one knows what it looks like and what its technical specifications are then it just seems a little strange to make all of these criticisms.

    It's probably not the ideal tool but wouldn't it make sense to let this thing loose on a strip of land to search for mines before real humans try to search the same strip. After all, people may be cheap in some parts of the world but they're never disposable.

  • This page [] has what is possibly an early photo of the droid. []
  • The best mine smasher was made by the Mules on Junkyard Wars. A large, rotating metal cylinder with chains coming off of it. It certainly did a good job thrashing the ground and the mines in the ground. I think we should make a robot based on that design and let it loose.
    • A design which has been around since about 1941 if I remember correctly: A version of one of the British (and probably American tanks too) existed then with exactly this system on it.

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:53AM (#3006321) Homepage
    • this will help remove mines in Afghanistan, which after 20 years of war has more then a few around

    Some factoids from the Gruaniad []:

    • 2,000 people a month are killed or maimed by landmines worldwide.
    • There are 110 million active landmines deployed worldwide.
    • For every mine removed, 30 more are layed.
    • Laying a mine costs between 3 and 30 dollars. Removing one costs between 300 and 1000 dollars.

    I hope this will be useful for all unexploded ordnance (UXO), not just mines. Iraq and Kuwait are still full of US UXO from the Gulf, and in a karmic twist, this report for the US army [] actually focuses on US troop casualties (based on Gulf data) as a prime consideration of US UXO, with civilian casualties as an "Oh yeah" afterthought. When even the military starts getting worried about the amount of explosives they're scattering everywhere, it's time to take stock.

  • From a soldier (Score:2, Informative)

    by two_socks ( 516862 )
    A couple of quick items from someone trained to handle mines.

    No, not all mines have probes or trips above the ground - there are both anti-personnel and anti-armor mines that are completely buried with no above ground protrusions.

    "Not that I know much about landmines, but does this mean the detonator cap is smashed without detonating? Or separated from the explosives before it can?"
    No, this would blow the whole thing.
  • by Hoyceman ( 452009 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @08:58AM (#3006338)
    I was in the Army for a while and even spent some time working with the Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit learning about bomb defusal. I think this robot is a great idea and could even work, but it has some definate drawbacks. There are a lot of mines where this would work very well.

    The Army uses small explosive charges themselves to disarm the mines while at the same time the explosion throws them out of the way. As far as everyone talking about the non-ideal terrain that it would have to find mines on, I don't entirely agree. Military disposal is usually limited to making a wide enough path through an area so the rest of the force can travel through. The military doesn't waste time (according to them a waste of time) disarming every mine they come across. They just take care of the ones directly in their way and move on. As long as the mines in the area were not of a very few specific types of the mines out there, it would be great to not have to risk human lives and use the robot to disarm the mines.

    A few issues that would need to be addressed are the sensing, disposal after the crushing, and different triggers. The robot would need a density sensor on it to accurately find mines that contain a small amount(sometimes none)of metal. These make up only a small amount of the land mines that industrialized countries drop, but there are tons of homemade landmines out there in the world.

    Disposal after the crushing with the piston is another issue. Just because the main detonator is destroyed doesn't make the landmine safe. There are plenty of landmine configurations that have secondary detonators that are much harder to destroy.

    As for the different kinds of triggers, yes this would probably not work with magnetic triggers. There are plenty of different types of magnetic triggers, and I'm sure it would work for some of them. This almost doesn't matter because of the low frequency at which you will find those few kinds of triggers I can think of where it wouldn't work, but it will happen from time to time. It depends on how big of an area the magnetic field covers. Most of them just cover a small area right above the mine, but I have heard of a few whose only option for removal is to have the EOD guys strip naked(don't want your zipper or any other stupid thing setting it off) and do it by hand.

    So could this be a great idea? Yes. Does it have limitations? Yes. Do I think 75K is worth spending and not risking a human life? Absolutely.
    • The military doesn't waste time (according to them a waste of time) disarming every mine they come across. They just take care of the ones directly in their way and move on. As long as the mines in the area were not of a very few specific types of the mines out there, it would be great to not have to risk human lives and use the robot to disarm the mines.

      what kind of specific mines are you talking about, and why? thanks

      riaa untouched. no login required. advertisement free. []
      • Well having signed a bunch of papers I don't know how specific I can get, but there are mines out there with multiple sets of triggers designed to be counter-bomb disposal. You take out the one trigger with the hydrolic hammer and in doing so set off another trigger. There are also non-conventional (aka bio/chem/nuke) devices that are hidden like conventional land mines sometimes, and they aren't the ones you really want to smash if you catch my drift. But like I said, these non-conventional devices are so few and far between as to be considered a non-issue in this debate I think.
  • by Pat__ ( 26992 )
    One of the most time consuming ( difficult ?) tasks is preparing the terrain for the robot or the well traind human to work on. Especially when mines stay for tens of years ... you can imagine the bushes/rock/trees/ground drifts! ... I live in Lebanon and I have seen such mountains filled with mines (planted by Israel when it was occupying the south part). The UN here estimates they need 50 years to remove them all, they seriously doubt any robot will be able to handle the job well.
  • This reminds me of one of the scrapheap challenge tasks, as far as I remember the winning design was to smash the sand (the mines were buried on a beach) with spining chain flails. Much more fun, and far more dangerous :)
  • One of the rather interesting things about Mines (well, anything w/ explosives), is the fact that they become chemically unstable after time. To the point where disabling them mechanically does not remove the actual danger.

    You could have a mine w/ the detonation system completely destroyed, but if it is dropped/mishandled, it will go off and do just as much damage to the disposal team. I honestly don't see any other way to dispose of them, without using fire to fight fire (blowing up a mine w/ an explosive).
  • I sure wouldn't feel safe going to a field after it'd been inspected by a bunch of robots,
    however sophisticated mine detection gadgets they might have.
    Wonder if any common antipersonnel/vehicle mines could survive the hammering this monster can offer?
    RA-140 []
    theres also one in action:
    Raisu in action []
    (ok pics, sorry about the Finnish..)

    The robots might do a good job on really unaccessible terrains but for clearing up bigger areas, these offer more *bang* for a buck I think.
    Cheap, easy to operate and robust.

  • Perhaps a better way to rid the world of mines would be for the us to sign the multilateral agreement not to use or traffic in them. I still can't see any but sinister anti-civilian uses for these things.

    or any other reference to the accord.
  • There was a company in germany that had kind of a
    earth turning device to remove mines. It shuffled all the earth in and shreddered it, either destroying or letting explode (it was armored) the mines.

    The problem with these maschines seem always to be anti tank mines. Anti personal mines can be blocked by armor, but if you hit exidentally an AT mine, it will probably blow whatever machine you have.

  • Some "minesweepers" (the term is probably trademarked by Microsoft ;)) actually depend on detonating the device, a common historic tank had a drum with flailing chains, it's a lot easier to replace a chunk of chain then someone's leg.
  • The mine is then crushed by a hydraulically operated hammer positioned beneath the cowl, but it does not explode, because of the hammer's high velocity, the company said. The hammer can strike mines at velocities of up to three meters per second.
  • I've alway beeno wondering why don't they just isolate the minefield and drive a huge steam-roller over it. What kind of damage could a landmine do to a huge piece of steel anyway? Just get everyone far enough away.
  • Didn't some beer company demo this thing during the Superbowl??
  • by Civil_Disobedient ( 261825 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @10:47AM (#3007034)
    Here's probably more than you ever wanted to know about land mines, since this topic has interested me ever since my travels around Laos and Cambodia. Land mines kill or maim between 20 and 30 thousand people each year; men, women and children, since mines clearly don't have distinctions. About 80% of those affected are normal civilians, and about a third are children. Usually land mine victims die by slowly bleeding to death. 85% of all the casualties are in Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia.

    You might be surprised to know that while land mines are normally used to fight dirty little wars in third world countries, they are usually manufactured in the first world. A small list of manufacturers of mines are: Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada (yes, really), Chile, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Pakistan, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam and Yugoslavia. Even Switzerland sells five different models. The US sells 37 different types, and is the world's leader, closely followed by Italy (36), Russia (31), then Sweden (21) and China (21).

    Believe it or not, there are international regulations as to how land mines are supposed to be laid out, including having mine fields clearly labeled so your random stray farmer doesn't go getting his leg blown off. These are more suggestions than anything else, since the most effective method of distributing mines over a large area is to drop cluster bombs that can contain almost 250 mines per pod.

    Mines are generally not as difficult to disarm as many would think. While we might have the impression of the complex booby-traps laid during the Vietnam war, the reality is thankfully a lot less harrowing. Bombs work by detonating an explosive material that creates a wall of air that expands outwards at about 7,000 meters per second. Different mines also offer different packaging, so if you add small ball-bearings or nails to that mixture you can see how dangerous (even at a distance) they can be.

    Here are the major bomb types used around the world:

    Scatter Mines
    Scatter mines are designed primarily by Russia and were used primarily in Afghanistan. They are specifically designed not to kill their victims, but instead injure them, thus slowing down a larger party. It has the added effect ofd emoralizing the country and creating a strain on its economy to keep them alive. The PFM-1 butterfly bomb is dropped from airplanes or helicopters and their shape helps them to burrow slightly into the ground. They are easy to disarm, which is why the most common victims are now children not yet educated in their harm. The PFM-1 can be modified to detonate with light pressure after being armed (once it hits the ground), or self-detonate after a specified period.

    Small Antipersonnel
    These are usually manufactured out of plastic, which makes them very difficult to pick up when scanning. They have feather-light contacts and normally have to be hand-set, usually buried in the mud or under a bush. They are also designed to incapacitate rather than kill. The big models are the Chinese Type 72, Italian TS-50 and United States M14.

    Large Antipersonnel
    Larger mines are generally packed with about 5 times the amount of explosives of their smaller counterparts. They are designed to take out larger parties of people, or even entire platoons, and are the most popular land mine in existance. They are triggered by pressure plate, and normally buried under high-traffic areas. Because of their larger size and higher amount of metal parts, they are easier to find (but much more dangerous to disarm). These mines cost about $3 to make.

    Frag Mines
    Fragmentation mines are designed to explode with a large payload of high-velocity metal parts. In the United State's Claymore mine, it's ball bearings. The Russian POMZ-2 uses small, sharp metal pieces. These mines are usually designed like glorified grenades, and have pins that can be connected to strings or wires and used as booby traps. There are also Bouncing Betty style frag grenades that, when triggered, project upwards about 5 feet to maximize the kill-zone. The Italian Valmara-69 is the most famous of this design, and can contain 1000 individual pieces of shrapnel. Because of the blast radius, survival rates are usually very low.

    Road Mines
    These mines have the highest casualty rates of any type. They are very large plate-trigger designs that are easily disarmed (when found), but when they go off, they can take out entire tanks, their occupants, and any soldiers close by. The British L9 and Italian VS-22 were popular models used in the Gulf War. There are two strategies to planting these mines. One is to plant them in the well-worn treads on a mud road (if a vehicle has been over them, it must be safe, right?). The other method takes the opposite approach, and places them in the areas just to the side of major roads (kinda' like reverse psychology.)

    The most daunting task to clearing the land mines is the sheer number of them still active around the world. Egypt has the most, at 23 million, but Iran, Angola, Afghanistan, Cambodia, China and Iraq all have more than 10 million buried in them. About two million new land mines are planted each year (more than 15 million are manufactured). Since only about 100,000 land mines are removed each year, you can easily see that they will be with us for a very, very long time.

    Much of this information was gathered at HALO Trust's website ( HALO is an agency dedicated to the elimination of land mines. Also, information on land mines was obtained from The World's Most Dangerous Places by Robert Pelton. Pick up a copy if you're a travel buff.
  • by frank249 ( 100528 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @11:16AM (#3007357)
    The problem with mines is that they hard very hard to detect. Modern mines have very little if any metal content. Battlefields usually are riddled with shrapnel/shell casings etc which make metal detecters useless even if the mine had metal.

    The Canadian Defence Research Establishment(DRES) [] in Sulfield Alberta is a world leader in mine detection technologies. Their latest invention is the Improved Landmine DetectorProject (ILDP) []. The ILDP system consists of a teleoperated vehicle carrying three scanning sensors which operate while the system is in motion; a metal detector array (MMD) based on electromagnetic induction (EMI), an infrared imager (IR), ground penetrating radar (GPR), and a confirmatory sensor which requires the system to be stationary and near a target of interest, consisting of a thermal neutron analysis (TNA) detector. Each of the sensors provides information concerning the presence (or absence) of physical properties which accompany the presence of landmines. For example, IR provides a measure of thermal anomalies, EMI reports anomalies in electrical conductivity, GPR detects anomalies in dielectric and other electromagnetic properties, and the TNA provides a measure of nitrogen content.

    One the mine is identified and marked the vehicle can move on and let the lifing or destruction of the mine to the engineers.

    Canada first proposed the banning of anti-personnel mines and the treaty is commonly refered to as the Ottawa treaty. They also set up the Canadian Centre for Mine Action Technologies [] which is coordinating research into new technologies from around the world.

    As a soldier, I agree that anti pers mines have a limited tactical role and the human cost in civilian casualties is too great to justify their use. It is time to ban them forever.

  • by jackrabbit123 ( 164587 ) on Thursday February 14, 2002 @11:18AM (#3007372)

    There seems to be a lot of misinformation here about the removal process of landmines. As a combat engineer for the US Army I have been trained on such procedures (though never having done them, thank god!). I'd like to explain how the process of breaching a minefield works.

    Your basic tools are the ANPSS-12 Minedetector (basically a metal detector), and a ceramic rod. The detectors are sent out in groups of 3 (there are 4 more people in the group for command and control purposes, but they aren't the ones doing the detecting) and they move forward in a diagonal formation and they sweep in a circular arc around them searching for the mines. When one of those people finds a mine, the other two go back to the rear of the formation while the other lies down in the prone (face first) and starts poking the mine with his ceramic rod(having checked for trip wires and things of that nature of course).

    Keep in mind that it takes only a few pounds of force to detonate an antipersonel mine. Something easily achieved with a little stick!

    When the mine is found, if it's buried(not all are, I'll cover that in a minute) then the soldier uncovers the top of the mine and goes about checking for Anti-Handling Devices(booby traps). If the soldier finds one, he(I say he becuase women are not allowed to be combat engineers) must disarm because he's already handled the mine. Yes they can be that sensitive! If he screws up, he has several pounds of explosives blow up in his face.

    Not all mines are triggered by pressure. There is another type of fuse used to trigger a mine called a tilt rod. It stands on top of the mine and when tilted a few degrees, which for US tilt rod fuses requires only 10 lbs of force, detonates the mine. These are used exclusively in anti-tank mines, the theory being that the vehicle rolls over the mine causing the mine to detonate under the belly of the vehicle. These add something else to the mix. Now first you have to disarm the tilt rod fuse before defusing the rest of the mine.

    Is this job dangerous? VERY!!!

    In fact, combat engineer is one of the most dangerous jobs in the military (for a variety of other reasons too :) )

    All traditional US Mines have metal in them to make them easier to find by our guys once the war is over. Other countries don't play so nice. They use wood and plastic. So our little mine detectors won't find them, but our feet will! Also some of them have magnetic fuses, which operate similarly to the sensors for traffic lights. When our metal detectors go over them they go "boom!"

    Having explained all this I'm sure you can see why the army (and other services I'd imagine) continually look for better and safer ways to disarm mines. There have been several items that have been tested and are being tested right now. We tested a South African device only to discover that it performed horribly :) They're now testing a minedetector that uses radar instead of just a regualr metal detector and I remember seeing on CNN that there is a European company that has a remote controlled mine remover.

    This japanese robot is a great device that deserves a serious look. For those critics who think that the detector will get caught up on terrain, they've never seen what a tracked vehicle can do. Wheeled vehicles can be very reliable too (remember the mars rover?)

    Now before you start flaming me about misinformation, this is as I remember it, so there is no warranty :) If you'd like to check out more about mines and such you can refer to: FM20-32 [] .

  • Why send a robot to do a man's job []? If the robot fails, you're out some serious coin buying a replacement. If the man fails, all your out is a big hammer.
  • could probably remove a lot more landmines in many areas with a chain grid towed from a helicopter. Sound crazy? Might be, but... this [] describes how to work around some of the more obvious engineering gotchas, and a video of a test of the system. I think it's pretty cool, at any rate.
  • Are they affordable enough so that I can get one to compete in Battlebots?
  • Ban Landmines! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by amartey ( 530915 )
    A political solution to the landmine problem is far preferable to a technical one. The United States needs to sign and ratify the 1997 UN Treaty to ban landmines. The US is one of only 51 countries who have not signed the treaty. The US joins the ranks of such stellar countries as Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran in not supporting this treaty.

    Landmines kill far more civilians than military personnel. Landmines are not a targeted weapon - they kill indiscriminitely.

    For more information, see:

    International Campaign to Ban Landmines []

    United States Campaign to Ban Landmines []

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