The European Union in Humanitarian Demining
Karin De Bruyn, Claudio Bruschini, Hichem Sahli and Jan Cornelis
Issue 4.1 | February 2000 | Information in this issue may be outdated. Click here to link to the most recent issue.
The EUDEM project
tried to provide the European Commission, as one of the largest sponsors of
research in European humanitarian demining, with a survey titled "A State
of the Art on Humanitarian Demining Technology, Products and Practice."
Current practices and emerging technologies were discussed so that applied
research can be directed toward solving real problems. Sustainable demining
has to become more than "a man with a probe."
of the EUDEM Project
of the landmine problem has grown in the last 5 to 10 years, and so has the
response of the international community. Political activities have culminated
in the signature in 1997 of the Ottawa Ban Treaty. At the convention, the
European Union (EU) committed to reinforce its efforts in helping afflicted
nations clear their land of these deadly weapons. Given the scale and complexity
of the problem, it would be highly beneficial to increase the coordination
for maximum efficiency.
At the EU level,
civil research has started within the High Performance Computing and Networking
(HPCN) domain of the Information Technologies (IT) program, to promote industrial
R&D activities in Europe in support of humanitarian demining operations
world-wide. The aim is to bring advanced equipment to the field in two to
four years to improve speed, cost and safety of demining operations.
ESPRIT is an
information technologies program of industrial R&D projects managed by
the DG III. Three ESPRIT R&D projects started in early 1998 and six more
in early 1999. These projects aim at researching, developing and testing new
systems for detecting anti-personnel landmines. These R&D projects are
supported by testing and evaluation, surveys and data collection. EUDEM is
one of these support activities. Recent humanitarian demining falls under
the responsibility of DG XIII, as an integral part of the Information Society
a list of goals: to establish a list of organizations to be consulted, primarily
industrial companies developing equipment used in humanitarian demining; and
organizations performing or supervising humanitarian demining operations.
These organizations include key research centers and university laboratories
active in this field.
Goals Were Achieved
the Internet to find: lists of existing links and databases, internal list
of persons and organizations active in humanitarian demining, EU financed
projects, participant lists to well known conferences in the domain, and literature
on the subject. The EUDEM database was gradually populated during the survey,
and will remain an open working tool allowing updates and new entries on a
continuous basis. The EUDEM database is accessible world wide and not limited
to organizations active in Europe.
The survey exploited
a combination of literature review, telephone contacts, questionnaires, interviews
and other methods.
were visited. Persons active at an organization level, or in demining practice
and technical development were interviewed. Also, some organizations not yet
active in the field but showing relevant interest and innovative ideas were
In making the
selection of contacts, we tried to reach the whole spectrum in the EU. The
database now covers a population that goes beyond the list of people that
were directly contacted by us.
After the initial
list of organizations was established, the second phase of EUDEM consisted
of a mailing. At first, 110 organizations were contacted on Jan. 26, 1999.
These organizations received a one-page letter and a two-page questionnaire.
The questionnaire was short and most questions could be answered by checking
received a short introduction of what our survey consisted of, and its purpose.
Consequently, a brief overview of the interviewed organization was requested,
followed with a clarifcation of the involvement in humanitarian demining activities.
A brief discussion was held on the past and current activities of the organization.
Most emphasis was placed during the interviews on the personal opinion of
the interviewee with respect to a certain technologies and practices.
projects not necessarily directly related to humanitarian demining were discussed,
we tried to identify the project's aims, maturity of the different technologies
involved and corresponding cost estimates, testing procedures; transferability
of the developed techniques to different aspects of humanitarian demining,
technical specifications of the equipment, performances in certain circumstances,
compatibility between different techniques, degree of success in the field,
R&D activities and strategies, research funding and commercial perspectives.
The overall response
rate to the questionnaire has been high. The entries were taken into account
for the extraction of statistics until the end of May 1999. Out of the 168
contacted organizations, 96 entries were made in the online database at http://www.eudem.vub.ac.be.
A brief analysis
on the distribution of the entries over the different countries reveals the
following stated in Graph 1. Note that also nine entries of organizations
from outside the EU have been registered. Distribution of entries in the EUDEM
database over countries (total: 96)
number of database entries clearly comes from Industrial Small and Medium
Enterprises with less than 250 employees (Industrial SME (<250 pers.))
see Graph 2. These are often not exclusively focusing their production on
tools for humanitarian demining. Their willingness to participate in the EUDEM
survey may also be explained by commercial agendas. The eight entries labeled
"consultancy" in Graph 2 are small companies, mostly created by
private consultants. In total, 31 organizations mention consultancy as one
of their activities.
Graph 2 - Distribution of Industrial SME, by Country
The highest concentration
of Industrial SMEs is found in Germany (5) and the UK (5), followed by Sweden,
hosting 3 Industrial SMEs. (See Graph 3)
Graph 3 - Distribution according to Organization type
Graph 4 - Research Centers
Graph 4. Distribution of Academic Institutions in the EUDEM database according
to the country of origin
Graph 5 - Academia
Graph 5. Distribution of Research Centers entries in the EUDEM database
according to country of origin
take the second largest share of entries made in the database. This may be
explained by their eagerness to participate in collaborative EU research and
development projects, their policy of putting results in the public domain
through publications and patents and the less stringent constraints to protect
their property rights. The densest concentrations of academic institutions
involved in humanitarian demining are in the UK and Italy. They each count
for 27 percent of the academic organizations involved in humanitarian demining
in Europe. Entries are in clockwise order from the top.
research centers have also made a large amount of database entries. The research
centers in Europe are mostly located in five countries: Sweden, The Netherlands,
France, Italy and Belgium.
Although we have
made a distinction between universities and research centers, in practice
both are often funded by the government, and depend primarily on the countries'
strategy for organizing research whether a certain research activity is carried
out in universities or in separate research centers. The last two graphs show
that the EU hosts a large independent research potential, compared to the
in humanitarian demining
The 87 European
organizations that filled in the "type of involvement in demining"
field are all mentioning mine detection, some combined with clearance/destruction
and survey/mapping. Out of the 87 organizations, 74 percent declared to be
involved in mine detection.
Out of the 87
respondents in Europe, (see Graph 1) only 70 have given information on technology
studies. The nine organizations outside of Europe are not taken into account.
The numbers given in this section should not be taken as absolute numbers.
We find the highest focus on the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) technology,
declared by 20 organizations. The second highest was the Metal Detector (MD),
mentioned by 15 organizations.
Table 1 - Types of organizations and number of corresponding
(for humanitarian demining)
Affairs, Development Aid
STATE OF HUMANITARIAN DEMINING
and individuals we encountered include industrial companies, operators, key
research centers, university laboratories and government agencies active in
humanitarian demining, as well as some organizations not yet active in the
field but showing relevant interest and innovative ideas. We concentrated
mostly on detection, and partly on clearance and destruction equipment technologies;
other aspects of the mine action process were investigated with the operators
themselves, and some government agencies. The organizations are subdivided
Eudem found a
myriad of equipment, ranging from dogs to technological systems, used for
table shows the technology, and the corrolating maturity and cost. We added
comments to clarify the aforementioned fields. Technological "maturity"
should be interpreted as a qualitative measure expressing a mixture of the:
state of advancement of the R&D; demonstration of detection capabilities
useful for humanitarian demining; and demonstration of building a practical
system. "Cost" includes technological cost only, and does not take
into account the actual productivity in the field. (See Table 2)
The EUDEM report
is a summary of EU humanitarian demining technology, products and practice.
Sometimes the conclusions reflect personal opinions of the authors, and some
of them had to be simplified leaving out nuances in order to make their message
clear. For detailed information and the origin of the individual conclusions,
the reader is referred to the information coming from different sources in
the original report and its annexes.
are classified in three categories: "policy," related to organizational
and coordination aspects; "practice," related to currently used
demining technology and procedures; and "technology," related to
R&D for new technologies, specification of equipment and testing.
- Equipment Procurement
have stressed the need for new technology to speed-up current demining procedures,
but they are often reluctant to invest. Each circumstance requires specific
logistics, campaign organization and equipment, and as a consequence not all
existing equipment is continuously in use. Investment in equipment maintenance
is also too high. The concept of an Equipment Procurement Agency, acquiring,
organizing and maintaining a central pool of equipment, could form the basis
of a solution to meet the market requirements. Work on setting up such an
agency is currently ongoing.
Apart from the
normal protections of industrial property rights, we have found many government-funded
projects for humanitarian demining purposes which are not releasing any of
their results to the public. This resulted from the early military involvement
in the domain. For example, many classified NATO reports could bring the development
of new technology, the assessment of usefulness of certain techniques and
the standardization of testing protocols.
- Eudem Database:
The EUDEM database
is an attempt to give an overview of European humanitarian demining. It could
serve as a common data repository and a practical search tool for all participants
in the demining sector, simplifying contacts and favoring joint efforts. Maintaining
the availability of the EUDEM database requires effort, continued over a number
of years. Information sources on humanitarian demining can be consulted via
the Internet, but most of them repeat the same topics.
- Mine Dog Programs:
use of dogs is far from being a perfect science, well-run dog programs have
managed to convince skeptic deminers. The use of dogs is approved by most
humanitarian demining organizations for area verification and mine-field delineation
purposes, which allow important time gains compared to manual clearance operations
and quality control after mine-clearance activities.
is observed from mechanical demining towards mechanically assisted demining
adaptable to local circumstances. Machines usually have to be backed-up by
some manual method. These systems are employed for mine verification and area
reduction tasks, as well as clearance of actual mine fields. Large mechanical
systems require substantial investments.
vs. Military Objectives:
It is important
to understand that mine detection and mine-field delineation technology is
based on military operational doctrine, compared to humanitarian or post-conflict
- Input From
and technology have influenced the field of humanitarian demining. Other domains
are also providing new insights, such as non-destructive testing, signal/image
processing, remote sensing, Geographic Information Systems and medical imaging.
- Existing vs.
demining campaign sponsors brought up that less emphasis should be put on
development of new technologies. The "improvement of existing technology
will resolve the problem faster." Some prefer an imperfect technique
whose limitations are well-known as compared to a new technique that is not
yet trusted. The need for complete solutions, taking into account all aspects
was stressed by many NGOs - Mine Action is indeed not only about demining.
- (Global) R&D
Much of the R&D
effort for humanitarian demining has gone toward the detection of individual
mines. Two approaches seem to be the most predominant: the use of a multi-sensor
system, or the combination of a detection sensor. Some research is currently
done on wide-area confirmation methods. Airborne mine field delineation or
explosive vapour/trace detection to complementor partially replacedogs,
in order to save precious time by concentrating on areas which really need
to be demined. Evolution should be governed by a set of keywords (NPA): "Safer,
Faster and Cheaper".
- Sensor Technology
have to rely on indirect evidence due to the absence of well-established definitions
of equipment performance; most of the results of independent performance tests
are not publicly available; we have not conducted performance tests ourselves;
and we do not share the practical experience of deminers working in the field.
We nevertheless think that Table 2 is useful in fixing the large tendencies
in technology maturity and equipment cost.
in practice (Magnetometers, Gradiometers)
claims low cost
multisensor probe including radiometer mm wave radar
figure based on lab equipment
Penetrating Radar (GPR)
Quadrupole Resonance (NQR)
Neutron Analysis (TNA)
Neutron Analysis (FNA)
Mobility Spectrometer (IMS)
Table 2 (Qualitative)
Maturity and Cost evaluation for the previously mentioned technologies. Maturity
indication ranges from Low (L) to Medium (M) up to High (H); Cost indication
uses L » 4000 EURO (price of a high end metal detector), M » 2 to
5 times L, H » 5 to 10 times L, and HH >10 times L.
- Airborne Minefield
Detection / Remote Sensing:
The role of remote
sensing vs. ground-based methods has not yet been fully identified. For airborne
mine-field detection on realistic surfaces (100-to 1000-km2), terabytes
(1000 gigabytes) of digital data have to be analysed. Setting-up a measurement
campaign is a complex and expensive operation. Although for civilian applications
on-board processing might not be a primary requirement, even off-line analysis
requires huge computing facilities. The development of remote sensing systems
has been primarily done in the military context and it is unlikely that these
systems will be operational for civilian applications in the near future.
Several platforms have been tested, like airships, aircrafts, drones and helicopters.
The privileged sensors are the optical and the IR imager, although UWB-SAR
seems to yield promising results for the future. On certain soil types and
non-densely vegetated areas the airborne mine-field delineation results are
reported to be successful (e.g. deserts).
- Testing and
of specifications for testing protocols is again an international mission.
The existence of several ad hoc protocols is a well-known fact after this
survey, but they remain proprietary information, which is inaccessible for
the research community. In order to test or compare new technologies that
are in the development phase or have been developed, a possibility should
exist to gain confidence by application in the field. The establishment of
a joint working group, focusing on the development of testing methodologies
and the design of standards for sensor and system assessment, is currently
ongoing. On the European side, the existing Committee of Advisors: Detection
of Mines based on Operational Standards (CADMOS) workgroup, promoted by JRC,
acts as the core group.
in December 1998 and ended in July 1999. The survey was conducted by EPFL
(École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) and VUB (Vrije
Universiteit Brussel). It was funded by EU; DG XIII.
Karin De Bruyn,
Claudio Bruschini, Hichem Sahli, Jan Cornelis
VUB-ETRO, Department "Electronics and Information Processing"
Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel:. +32 (0)2
Fax: +32 (0)2 629 2883