How to clear landmines: The answer is blowin’ in the wind

More than 100 million landmines are still concealed throughout the world – one landmine for every 17 children. In Afghanistan hundreds of square kilometres are contaminated by mines and unexploded ordinance. Fortunately Kabul-born inventor Massoud Hassani has come to the rescue.

Antipersonnel mines and cluster munitions are indiscriminate weapons that injure and kill civilians in every corner of the globe every day. They don’t recognize ceasefires and claim victims long after the end of conflicts. They instil fear in communities and are a lethal barrier to development.

Placed under or on the ground, antipersonnel mines explode from the contact or presence of a person. When triggered, they kill or cause injuries like blindness, burns, destroyed limbs and shrapnel wounds. Until the 1990s, antipersonnel landmines were used by almost all the world’s armed forces. Thanks to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, landmine use has dramatically dropped, but land mines continue to kill nearly 20,000 people every year, even decades after the end of the conflicts during which they were placed.

Minesweeper(1)Now, Massoud Hassani, born in Kabul, has invented a tumbleweed-like device inspired by homemade balls he played with as a boy in Afghanistan. Hassani’s creation will be on exhibit in March 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. A documentary film about the device – a collection of spokes with Frisbee-like ends that rolls around under wind power – is a semi-finalist in the 2013 Focus Forward Filmmaker Competition.

The Mine Kafon is made from bamboo with a biodegradable plastic core and feet. It is light enough to use wind power as its source of kinetic energy and pliable enough to withstand four mine explosions before needing to be rebuilt. A GPS tracker marks exactly where the device has travelled so the monitoring team knows which areas are still in need of surveying.

Minesweeper(2)Hassani has said that the cost of clearing just one landmine can amount to $1200, whereas the Mine Kafor will cost $40 once put into production. The prototype has undergone two years of testing and Hassani says he’s now ready to launch it on the market.

In some of the poorer regions of the world, people search for mines by hand, sticking things into the ground. Many are not trained to do it and there are a lot of accidents. Hassani, who now lives in the Netherlands, believes that the Mine Kafon could be a safer, and cheaper, alternative. He has spent two years improving his invention and has teamed up with the Dutch military and the country’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit to test it.

Anyone interested in funding this project should visit the Kickstarter Project.

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2 comments on “How to clear landmines: The answer is blowin’ in the wind

  1. tillyv says:

    Brilliant!

  2. KatC says:

    This is a beautifully designed object but it is not brilliant! This article shows that the kafons would be very ineffective. http://www.statisticsblog.com/2013/01/simulation-of-landmine-clearing-with-massoud-hassanis-mine-kafon/

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