A Dutch coalition of high-tech organizations will soon be helping the Ukrainian organization PostUp, based in Poland (see: PostUp) at the test site of the Royal Netherlands Army in Reek (NL) with the development of a drone that can detect mines. The coalition consists of land research specialist T&A Survey from Amsterdam, education and research institute Jheronimus Institute of Datascience (JADS) from Den Bosch, and data science start-up Datacation from Eindhoven. They provide their unique expertise, which is mainly aimed at detecting mines in the ground using sensor technology and artificial intelligence.
In Ukraine, up to 30% of the territory is contaminated with explosive objects, making mine clearance the most urgent topic at the moment.
Given the magnitude of the contamination, using conventional mine clearance methods would mean decades of work. Currently, during demining, up to half of the sappers’ working time is spent searching for unexploded mines and grenades. The use of remote sensing systems that detect explosive objects in automatic mode helps to significantly reduce costs and time. Given that up to 1,000 civilians and military personnel have been injured and/or killed by landmines since the full-scale invasion began, there is an urgent need for technology that would further isolate people from the need to work under mine-threatened conditions.
There are several experimental mine clearance systems available in the world today. They are based on different physical principles and have their own advantages and disadvantages. Among the most promising are systems using magnetometers, which record the change in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by the presence of landmines. Their main advantages are the ability to detect underground mines, the ability to work day and night, and independence from weather conditions.
PostUp develops drone solution for detecting mines with sensor technology and artificial intelligence.
The Polish charitable foundation “PostUp”, founded by people from Ukraine, created a solution for non-contact scanning of the magnetic field using aerial drones, automating the demining process. The magnetometer, mounted under the drone, continuously records the parameters of the Earth’s magnetic field along a 2-meter-wide strip with precise coordinates. After the flight, the collected data is processed with artificial intelligence to create a minefield map, with bright dots indicating land mines and grenade locations. One magnetometer drone can replace 30 to 150 sappers, depending on the level of mine pollution. The solution is capable of scanning ~10-15 hectares per day, so in 5 years, with a swarm of 700-1000 drones, it would be possible to scan all open areas contaminated with unexploded ordnance, without involving 300,000 personnel.
PostUp started its experiments in June 2022, gradually expanding the list of mining types and their knowledge of data collection and processing. A year later, in February 2023, PostUp was able to carry out the first field tests near Balakliya, in the Kharkiv region.
Today’s solution still needs further development to detect a wider range of mine types. For example, there are plastic (‘butterfly’) mines that are difficult to detect with a magnetometer because they contain a small amount of metal (the fuse). Therefore, modeling targets are required to run tests and train the AI model to improve the classification of objects (mines).
PostUp starts collaboration with the Dutch high-tech coalition.
In May 2023, PostUp contacted Qualified to brainstorm about the current issues, and Qualified established a coalition of Dutch tech organizations to help PostUp develop the application. The Royal Netherlands Army has now made its test facility in Reek available, including the possibility to test with real Russian mines.