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April 25, 2002
For Immediate Release

Media Contact

Helen Worth
Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
Laurel, MD 20723
Phone: 240-228-5113 or 443-778-5113

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Johns Hopkins APL Building a Better Mine Detector

Low-cost, Portable, Robotic System Has High Detection Rate

Several thousand people — many of them children — are killed each year by the estimated 110 million land mines that lie hidden in 68 countries throughout the world. Humanitarian mine-clearing operations are costly and — because they employ handheld detectors — are dangerous and often deadly.

Physicist Carl Nelson of The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md., is developing a low-cost mine detector that one person can backpack to a suspected minefield and then operate either autonomously or by remote control.

"Today's mine detectors are just metal detectors and give between 100 - 1,000 false-positive returns for every real land mine," says Nelson. "Our Mine Rover significantly reduces the number of false alarms due to metal clutter in the environment."

Equipped with an advanced electromagnetic induction sensor developed in conjunction with the U. S. Army, along with a sophisticated classification algorithm, the Mine Rover detects suspected mines — even ones that are mostly plastic — and marks their location, thus removing the threat to the operator.

The Mine Rover's compact size is due to the sensor being an integral part of its structure — in contrast with other mine detecting robot systems that are just a robot with an attached metal detector. APL's robot is scalable and can carry chemical and biological agent detectors, television cameras, and/or devices to neutralize the mines. Infrared sensors and ground-penetrating radars could also be added to the robot for improved mine detection capability. Another plus, Nelson says, is that many of the basic parts can be built in developing countries, where mine threats are the greatest.

Nelson says the Mine Rover has passed all proof-of-concept tests and is now ready for the next step: an advanced technology prototype for full field test demonstration.

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The Applied Physics Laboratory, a division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.