I am often sent articles on new landmine detection technologies that promise to “save millions of dollars, lives and limbs.” Most of these new ideas are “tested in the field” and “proven to work.”
This latest example, a landmine detector app for your smartphone, was sent to me by a friend calling the idea a “game changer.” If by changing the game he meant losing a limb or worse, then yes, this idea may be a game changer.
SAPER has 75 percent accuracy in detecting land mines, and works from 30 centimeters away. However, both of these stats can be improved by purchasing their external, more powerful magnetometer/metal detector, for “premium users,” which the team says makes the app comparable in accuracy to current military tools. Being from a military academy, Team ARMED had access to a field test site, where they buried mines in the ground and tested their app on them.
If you are holding your iPhone 30 centimeters from a thus far undetected landmine, your game may be about to be changed, indeed.
Real-life situations are usually much different than the ideal lab or simulated environments where these gizmos get tested. In Vietnam, where Team ARMED wish to deploy their tool, it’s been three decades since landmines were laid and bombs were dropped. Erosion from flooding, plant life and human activity has greatly altered the landscape which makes simulation unreliable at best.
I am happy, though, that these devices and techniques continue to pop up in the media. They serve as reminders of the threat that landmines and unexploded bombs continue to pose to communities around the world.
You can call me old-fashioned, but for my money and safety when it comes to landmine removal, I’ll stick with these guys: