Canadian Robotics Company Helps Portuguese Researchers Safely Remove Landmines

The University of Coimbra in Portugal has received a mechanical leg up from Kitchener Ontario-based Clearpath Robotics.

The Canadian robotics company has donated a mobile robotic base to the University to aid in their research on automated landmine removal.

The donation was made through Clearpath’s grant program “Partnerbot,” part of Clearpath’s ongoing commitment to supporting university research teams. The team at Coimbra hopes to program the robot to analyze and navigate terrain, and to detect and disable buried mines. For its part, the donated base ‘bot is equipped with navigation sensors, ground penetrating radar and metal detecting arm.

The hope is that the base, which Clearpath calls the Husky Unmanned Ground Vehicle, will one day be able to locate and localize landmines to spare human lives from being lost in either their purposeful or accidental discovery.

Current landmine removal methods range from sending people into known minefields in heavily padded suits, to training giant pouched rats to sniff out the explosives. As always, prevention is the best medicine; in 2013, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines announced in its annual report that the lowest number of new casualties had been reported in the previous year. This is thanks to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the highest-ever level of global funding involving land mines in 2012. Unfortunately, the number of countries where non-state armed groups have used mines, including in Afghanistan and Columbia, is at its highest in five years.