Civilian-purpose demining or humanitarian demining aims at finding and removing abandoned landmines without any hazard to the environment. According to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor report in 2014, it is estimated that there are more than 110 million active mines scattered in 68 countries. These landmines kill or maim more than 5,000 people annually, of whom 46% are children and cause 15,000-20,000 injuries each year. Landmines create millions of refugees or internally displaced people. While basic landmine detection and neutralizing theologies remain almost the same, landmine technology improved dramatically. The conventional detection methods make the procedure of removing 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 landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) contamination [IEEE-RAM2015].
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 (2015 IEEE RAS Chapter of the Year Award and 2012 Chapter of the Year 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 fifth edition of Minesweepers: Towards a Landmine-free World is organized by Zewail City of Science and Technology in conjunction with Second International Workshop on Recent Advances in Robotics and Sensor Technology for Humanitarian Demining and Counter-IEDs. Latin America regional round will be orgnaized by Universidad Catolica del Norte (Catholic University of the North) in Chile. The competition is organized in collaboration with IEEE RAS Egypt Chapter and Hadath for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The competition is organized under the auspices of IEEE RAS Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology (RAS-SIGHT). It is supported by Canadian Landmine Foundation, 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.