Detection and removal of antipersonnel landmines is, at the present time, a serious problem of political, economical, environmental and humanitarian dimensions in many countries over the world. It is estimated that there are more than 110 million active mines scattered in 68 countries. These mines kill or maim more than 5,000 people annually. If demining efforts remain about the same as they are now, and no new mines are laid, it will still take 1100 years to get rid of all the world’s active land mines. The conventional methods which are currently used make the procedure of removing this great numbers of landmines very slow, inefficient, dangerous and costly. Robotics systems can provide efficient, reliable, adaptive and cost effective solution for the problem of the landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination.
In order to foster robotics research and its applications in the area of humanitarian demining in the world, the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society – Egypt Chapter (winner of 2012 Chapter of the Year award in IEEE Region 8) initiated in 2012 Minesweepers: Towards a Landmine-free World as the first international outdoor robotic competition on humanitarian demining. It aims at raising the public awareness of the seriousness of the landmines and UXOs contamination and the role of science and technology in solving this problem and motivates professors, engineers and students working on innovative solutions for this serious problem.
In this competition, each participating team constructs a teleoperated/autonomous unmanned ground/aerial vehicle that must be able to search for underground and aboveground anti-personnel landmines and UXOs. The position and the type of each detected object are visualized and overlaid on the minefield map. The robot must be able to navigate through rough terrain that mimics a real minefield.
The third edition of Minesweepers: Towards a Landmine-free World is organized by Institute for Systems and Robotics, University of Coimbra under the auspices of IEEE RAS Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (RAS-SIGHT).
Minesweepers: Towards a Landmine-free World is organized in collaboration with IEEE RAS Egypt Chapter and Hadath for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The competition is sponsored by Misr University for Science & Technology (MUST) and October High Institute for Engineering & Technology. It is technically co-sponsored by IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS), Robots Everywhere and Marques Aviation Ltd and endorsed by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Portuguese Chapter. It is supported by InnoVision Systems, Executive Secretariat for the Demining & Development of the North West Coast, Mines Action & Human Rights Foundation and Protection against Armaments & Consequences and African Robotics Network (AFRON).
The ultimate goal of the Minesweepers competition is to put into practice the new strategic mission of IEEE, “…to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity” and to serve as an educational and a research forum to provide efficient, reliable, adaptive and cost-effective solutions for the serious problem of humanitarian demining in many affected countries in the world. The competition also motivates the participants to create new companies and industries geared towards minefield reconnaissance and mapping technologies. Moreover, the applicability of the robotic systems presented in this competition can be extended to a wide range of other applications such as security and surveillance, search and rescue, health monitoring of civil infrastructure, pipeline monitoring, and environment monitoring.