GLOBAL DEFENSE MARKET
DUBAI AIRSHOW NEWS: Airborne Demining System Ready to Launch
Laura Heckmann photo
Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Netherlands-based company Mine Kafon’s vision to rid the world of mines in 10 years has been nearly that many in the making, but its demining system aimed at tackling unexploded ordnance with drones and a giant iron ball can finally get the ball rolling.
Founded by Dutch-Afghan brothers Massoud and Mahmud Hassani, the company’s mission is to eradicate mines entirely in the next 10 years, and do it without putting human lives in danger. To do that, they created a system that attacks from both air and land to eliminate as much human interaction as possible.
The core system consists of a surveillance drone, a detection drone and the Mine Kafon Ball, a large, heavy sphere that detonates mines by rolling over them. The company claims the system is up to 20 times faster and 200 times cheaper than traditional demining technologies.
From the air, the system utilizes two drones that can map, detect and detonate unexploded ordnance. The system’s surveillance drone, called Destiny, is a long-range surveillance drone that identifies hazardous areas using a live video stream and high resolution camera with 10x zooming capabilities.
Once identified, mines are marked on a digital map by the drone operator, allowing for the creation of a 3D depiction of the terrain using autonomous mapping functionality. Once created, the map is immediately downloaded to a portable ground station that can either control the drone or set it to autopilot, Salem Alkendi, product manager for the International Golden Group — a UAE-based defense supplier that purchased the demining system from Mine Kafon — said in an interview at the airshow.
The drone is capable of long-range flights of up to a few kilometers, keeping humans at a safe distance, he said.
The second drone — Manta — is a detection drone designed specifically for demining and was on display at the Dubai Airshow exhibit floor.
Manta takes the 3D map generated from Destiny and navigates across the hazardous area, equipped with a variety of mine detecting sensors, including a metal detector and ground sensors that can detect hazards below the surface. The drone can also carry a collection device for chemical analysis.
Detection sensors gather data that is then used to detonate the unexploded ordnance using a remotely positioned explosive charge.
Mine Kafon also developed a series of robotic add-ons that can enhance Manta’s capabilities based on what Destiny finds. A few examples include a rope robot that can lower the detection device closer to the ground and a gripper robot for research and exploration.
Rounding out the demining system is the rolling Mine Kafon Ball: a large, wind-powered sphere heavy enough to detonate landmines as it rolls across the ground. Resembling a giant version of a suction cup ball toy, the ball was inspired by Massoud’s childhood growing up on the outskirts of Kabul, where he played around minefields with homemade, wind-powered toys, the company website said.
The ball is about the size of an average man with a 17-kilogram iron casing core surrounded by dozens of bamboo legs. Each leg is capped with plastic “feet” that can adapt to rough terrains, Alkendi said. The ball also has a GPS unit that can map its route for data that can be used later.
While the Hassani brothers have been raising awareness and funds for their vision for years, it is finally ready to launch. Alkendi said the International Golden Group has bought the product for the United Arab Emirates and will begin training with it next week.
Alkendi said the system has gained traction in the last few years, with interest from Ukraine to buy 3,000 units. Ukraine is currently dealing with a landscape littered with what could be millions of unexploded mines and cluster bombs in the midst of Russia’s unprovoked invasion, desperate for safe ways to clear them.
Alkendi said that is the brothers’ mission: to rid the world of mines, and to do it safely. Creating a product that sends in a machine rather than a human is the selling point, as the system can look below the surface with radar and find buried mines that would otherwise require dangerous human hunting, he added.
Whether or not the world will be rid of mines in 10 years remains to be seen, but the Mine Kafon demining system is ready to start trying.