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Faster detection of landmines using radar

23 February 2016

The German Aerospace Centre has developed a radar-based method that provides a more rapid, safe and cost-effective method of detecting landmines.

The developers were able to demonstrate the performance of TIRAMI-SAR in numerous experiments (photo: DLR)

Every 20 to 30 minutes, somewhere in the world, a person – often a child – steps on a landmine.  It is estimated that over 100 million anti-personnel mines are buried worldwide and a further 200 to 250 million are thought to remain in military storage facilities. This means they pose a constant threat, even long after the end of a conflict.

Now, thanks to a development by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), clearance personnel are able to examine areas of up to several hundreds of square metres in just a few minutes. It is only possible to search a few square metres in the same period of time using conventional methods. 
Hitherto, metal detectors or conventional ground-penetrating radars have been used, in addition to sniffer dogs to detect landmines. Factors such as soil composition, soil moisture content, or the material properties of the mines themselves often have an adverse impact on the performance of these techniques.

The TIRAMI-SAR system enables any objects found to be re-examined in a more targeted way using other sensors, increasing the reliability of the radar for detecting buried landmines or unexploded ordnance.

The ground-penetrating radar and detection procedure was developed, built, and tested by the DLR Microwaves and Radar Institute as part of the EU TIRAMISU (Toolbox Implementation for Removal of Anti-personnel Mines, Submunitions and Unexploded Ordnance) project.

The results of a TIRAMI-SAR pass (graphic: DLR)

The radar system is currently designed to fit on the load area of a small truck and is equipped with multiple transmitting and receiving antennas. The antennas operate in the ultra-high frequency range between 500MHz and 3GHz and are directed sideways and downwards. Thus, the operators can move the vehicle on safe terrain while the radar scans a nearby contaminated area.

Each object, each area of land – each surface – reflects radar signals with varying intensity. With the help of sophisticated algorithms, TIRAMI-SAR is able to process all radar echoes received into an 'intensity map' in real time as the truck is driven forward, enabling large areas to be quickly searched for suspicious objects.

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