A Better Way To Find Deadly Land Mines

Land-mine removal is dangerous and time-consuming. Metal objects regularly set off false alarms, each of which means holding up progress while experts manually--and gingerly--probe the ground. Moreover, standard metal detectors are next to useless for sniffing out plastic mines.

Now, Omron Corp. in Kyoto, Japan, has developed a sensor for underground radar that knows whether something is a mine or not. That wasn't easy. Radio signals traveling through soil quickly become weak and "noisy" from bogus reflections. So engineers headed by Yoichi Toguchi developed a microprocessor-based smart system. It digitizes and amplifies the radar echos, which facilitates analysis and enables Omron's sensor to avoid most false alarms.

The sensor is the key technoloyg in a detector has just completed successful field tests in Cambodia. Soon, the nonprofit Japan Alliance for Humanitarian Demining Support will donate the Mine Eye detector to groups involved in mine-removal efforts. For Omron, the new sensor and signal analysis system could be the guts of new equipment with a host of industrial applications, from inspecting people and packages for explosives to detecting rotting wood inside walls.

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