Researchers Monday at the Army’s Night Vision and Electronic Sensor Directorate in Fort Belvoir, Va. demonstrated how radar and electromagnetic field help soldiers find, identify and disarm buried land mines.
Before my arrival, the team buried a simulated mine in one of the six indoor mine lanes. For clarity, there were no actual explosive in this device. The only clues to its location was the smooth patch of sand and the nearby shovel. I could have told you, generally, where it was, but not with any accuracy.
The AN/PSS-14 mine detecting set could. The device resembles the metal detectors that you see people use at the beach—and it uses some of the same technology.
In metal-detecting mode, one of the researchers swept the head over the sand. When it passed over the buried mine, the device wailed.
Here, in a controlled environment, we all knew that the machine was reacting to the simulated mine, but a soldier in the field wouldn’t. Aaron LaPointe, the head researcher at the facility, said that modern mines contain very little metal. A buried nail would draw the same response, and a buried nail isn’t worth worrying about.
Then, his researcher switched to radar mode. He swept the head over the empty area of the sand. The machine stayed quiet. When he again swept it over the mine, it squealed, announcing that it had found a large mass.
The dual system, LaPointe said, allows soldiers to get a much better idea of what they’re dealing with. A small amount of metal or a large mass—separately—are unlikely to hurt anyone. But, if they find a small amount of metal AND a large mass in the same place, it just might be an explosive waiting to hurt someone.
And identifying it is the first step to neutralizing it.
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