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Posted 10.11.06

 
 
   

MU Researcher Aides Effort to Clear Land Mines

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The detection of landmines is critical in preventing debilitating injuries and preserving life - and not just for American soldiers fighting in the Middle East. Innocent civilians living in various parts of the world ravaged by war and turmoil also avoid injury or death when landmines are found and destroyed. As U.S. lawmakers examine the issue of landmine production, a University of Missouri-Columbia faculty member is contributing to global efforts to successfully locate and detonate these dangerous underground devices - for the safety of U.S. soldiers and innocent civilians.

Dominic HoDominic Ho, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering in the MU College of Engineering, is working with Army officials, private defense contractors and researchers from the University of Florida and Duke University to enhance the performance of landmine detection systems. Ho has worked with the military since 1999 on numerous landmine projects. He is about one year into his current $500,000 contract with the Army.

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Ho specifically works with the most important mechanism of a landmine detection system - the ground penetrating radar, which faces downward, scanning the surface for underground objects. Ho's research focuses on eliminating false detections, which are caused mainly by metal debris, plant roots and buried rocks. All are referred to as clutter objects. Ho studies and compares how signals are reflected from landmines and clutter. The information is used to develop more accurate and sensitive landmine detection techniques for handheld systems, which are commonly seen being used in a slow, left-to-right sweeping motion, and vehicle-based systems, which are attached to front bumpers. Although vehicle-based systems are still in development, Ho said the handheld systems incorporating his research are currently being used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We always want to avoid causalities, and the goal is to clear those dangerous devices and preserve the lives of soldiers and civilians," Ho said.

In addition to combat purposes, landmine detection is necessary for humanitarian reasons in countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand, Ho said. Thousands of civilians are killed or maimed annually by the devices that don't and can't distinguish between soldier and civilian. UNICEF estimates there is one victim every 20 minutes and that 30 to 40 percent are under the age of 15. According to the United Nations, more than 100 million anti-personnel mines are underground worldwide.

"It's a mess created by humans. It's not nature," Ho said. "We're trying to solve the problem we created."

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