To Clear Deadly Land Mines, Science Turns to Drones and Machine Learning


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(Scientific American) A warm wind blows across an empty field on the outskirts of Pawnee, Okla. A small group of researchers struggle against the stiff wind to set up a pop-up tent for some shade. Nearby a young man opens a heavy Pelican case to reveal a pile of explosives.“These are inert,” he says, “but we’re lucky to be working at a range that has so many different kinds of munitions.”

The range is an explosive-ordnance-disposal field laboratory maintained by Oklahoma State University, and the researchers are led by Jasper Baur and Gabriel Steinberg, co-founders of the Demining Research Community, a nonprofit organization bridging academic research and humanitarian demining efforts. They have been in Oklahoma for two weeks, setting up grids of mines and munitions to train a drone-based, machine-learning-powered detection system to find and identify dangerous explosives so humans don’t have to.

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Published: Thursday, September 8, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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