Chad | HI finalizes 2-year drone tests to support demining
In March, Humanity & Inclusion finalized its two-year drone experimentation in Northern Chad with its partners Mobility Robotics and FlyingLabs Côte d’Ivoire.
For the first time in the history of humanitarian mine action, drone flights were operated with Infra-Red in a real environment alongside weapons clearance operations.
Throughout the two-year project, Humanity & Inclusion tested drones to map and inspect hazardous areas. Teams in Chad captured photos and videos remotely to help deminers inspect unreachable locations and identify hazards on the surface and also created high-resolution maps to study signs of contamination such as craters or traces of landmine accidents involving animals or vehicles.
Humanity & Inclusion and its partners achieved a world-first in humanitarian mine action when teams used a thermal sensor flown on a small drone to locate buried anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines in desert minefields.
Teams faced daily challenges including remote locations, road hazards, extreme heat up to 124°F, sandstorms, food and water difficulties, scorpions, and landmine and explosive ordnances.
During those two years:
- More than 100 drone missions took place in 65 locations
- Travel to hazardous areas from the base took between 30 minutes and 1.5 days
- More than 35 polygons and 19 miles of strip minefields were mapped
- More than 2,500 landmines were located with the thermal sensor
- Dozens of nights were spent in the desert under the stars
- Six Chadian deminers were trained to operate small drones
This innovative project was made possible with generous funding from The Belgian Directorate-General Development and the European Union, and with support from people of the Haut Commissariat National de Déminage au Tchad.
World first | HI drones locate landmines buried underground
Xavier Depreytere, head of innovation projects at HI, explains why the drone demining project launched by HI in 2018 is a world first.Read more
Lebanon | Clearing mines in hard-to-reach areas
Since 2011, Humanity & Inclusion’s team has cleared 7.5 million square feet of land in Lebanon, the equivalent of 130 soccer fields. In the last two years alone—2017 & 2018—our mine clearance experts found and destroyed 4,500 explosive devices.
Ending a persistent threat
Humanity & Inclusion’s four demining teams are currently clearing fields in the district of Bsharri, which was contaminated by anti-personnel mines in the 1980s. The mined areas are very close to several villages. Accidents just after the civil war, in the 1990s, made a lasting impression on the local population. Since then, Humanity & Inclusion has taught locals how to spot, avoid and report the explosive remnants of war they may come across, and have set up warning signs.
Adapting to the terrain
Depending on the season, Humanity & Inclusion’s mine clearance experts operate in different types of terrain. In the summer months, they work at high altitude, and in winter, when it starts to snow, they return to the lower ground. Sometimes the land is hard to get to and the mine clearance experts have to build a makeshift staircase with sandbags to access certain areas. Heavy rain makes the slopes slippery and sometimes prevents teams from working.
Hard-to-find and different types of mines
The mines in Bsharri are old and buried in thick undergrowth. Mine clearance experts use metal detectors to locate them. When they find one, rather than move it, the team leader detonates it on the spot. Other mines are plastic, rendering them undetectable. To find them, mine clearance experts probe large swathes of land.
Humanity & Inclusion stays in close contact with the people who live close to the minefields. It is essential to update them on operations, particularly if they own land cleared of mines. It is also vital to warn local shepherds, who are among the most frequent casualties.
After the civil war, many villagers had to sell their mined land and leave the region. Some abandoned their land all together. Since the start of the clearance operations, 30,000 villagers have returned. Today, 76% of owners have rebuilt their homes or started growing olives, pears, and grapes again.
Thanks to support from Humanity & Inclusion donors and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, communities in Lebanon can return to their homes and live in safety.
Humanity & Inclusion in Lebanon
Humanity & Inclusion began working in Lebanon in 1992, supporting local associations with rehabilitation and psychosocial support projects. Since 2011, our mine action teams have been clearing landmines and other explosive remnants of war left from previous conflicts. In the summer of 2012, we began supplying relief to Syrian refugees in Lebanon with a special emphasis on helping those with disabilities and serious injuries. Learn more about our work in Lebanon.
Read the Associated Press story that features Humanity & Inclusion's deminers who are working to clear wartime mines from the cedar forests in Lebanon.
Innovation at HI | Demining drones: a mine clearance revolution?
Humanity & Inclusion, in conjunction with new technology companies, will start testing minefield survey drones in northern Chad in February 2019. Drones, which can map suspected hazardous areas remotely have the potential to revolutionize landmine clearance operations. If successful, drones would help target mine clearance areas more precisely and reduce the length of time it takes for teams to return contaminated land to civilians.
"Drones can hopefully provide considerable assistance in demining by reducing tenfold the time it takes to implement non-technical surveys, a phase that consists in identifying and demarcating potentially hazardous areas requiring the intervention of demining teams,” explains Emmanuel Sauvage, Head of Armed Violence Reduction at HI. “This phase is sometimes longer than the mine clearance operations themselves. By providing accurate data for mapping areas to be cleared, the drones will also help us to deploy our mine-clearance teams in a more targeted way.”
Clearing land and keeping people safe from weapons is at the core of our DNA. Innovation such as this is vital in order to meet the vast needs of mine clearance operations. In Chad alone, 39 square miles of land are contaminated by mines and explosive remnants of war. HI and its partners plan to clear 1.1 square miles over four years, relying on several mine clearance teams and a mine clearance machine.
In places like Chad, Laos, and Colombia, mines and explosive remnants of war pose a daily threat to civilians. In fact, in 61 countries around the world, explosive ordnance post a real obstacle to development. The Landmine Monitor 2017 report reveals that the number of new casualties of anti-personnel mines, factory-made or improvised, and explosive remnants of war increased by almost 25% in one year, rising from 6,967 casualties in 2015 to 8,605 casualties in 2016. The number of casualties nearly doubled between 2014 and 2015 (6,967 new casualties in 2015 compared with 3,993 in 2014).
From February to October 2019, HI will conduct trials near Faya-Largeau in northern Chad. By flying over large areas in a very short amount of time, the drone will significantly reduce the length of what mine clearance professionals call the "non-technical survey,” a field investigation phase that determines whether mines and explosive remnants are potentially present, thus requiring the intervention of mine clearance experts.
By providing aerial evidence of the presence or absence of mines and geolocation data, drones will also make it possible to create more precise boundaries of areas where deminers need to intervene, reducing intervention times. During the test phase, HI will also explore the possibility of developing a drone equipped with a radar to detect subsurface mines.
With financial support from the Belgian Government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, HI partnered with Mobility Robotics, a specialist in drone piloting, Third Element Aviation, a manufacturer of customized drones and sensor designer, Inzentive, which has developed a data management service, and Dynergie, a company tasked with making innovative proposals on demining methods.
Our mine action teams regularly conduct tests with companies and research teams based on new technologies. In addition to testing mine clearance drones, HI has embarked on a "mapping challenge" with research groups to convert satellite images into maps of previously unmapped areas, essential for emergency operations.
Project update | HI completes mine clearance operations in Senegal
Launched in 2011, the six-year mine action project in Casamance, has freed more than 160,000 sq.m of land – equivalent to 26 football fields! The threat from mines and explosive remnants of war–the legacy of a pro-independence conflict in the region in the 1980s and 1990s–has now been lifted for more than 1.5 million people across 12 villages.Read more
Laos: Protecting 10,000 People from Cluster Bombs
This blog was originally posted in January 2015.Read more
The Convention on Cluster Munitions turns seven
Seven years ago, the Oslo Convention banning the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions entered into force. Despite the undeniable success of the convention, cluster munitions were used repeatedly in Syria and Yemen, according to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2016 report.
In Syria, 76 attacks using cluster munitions were documented between September 2015 and July 2016, which is believed to be a conservative estimate. In Yemen, at least 19 attacks were documented between April 2015 and February 2016. Cluster munitions were also used in Sudan and Ukraine until early 2015.
Dropped from aircraft or fired from the ground, cluster bombs are designed to open in the air, releasing sub-munitions over an area equivalent to several football pitches. They kill and maim civilians and combatants indiscriminately. According to the Cluster Munition Monitor 2016 report, 97% of recorded victims of these weapons are civilians. Up to 40% of these sub-munitions do not explode on impact. This endangers the lives of civilians, sometimes for decades after a conflict has ended, and disrupts the economic and social life of contaminated areas.
Progress on the universalization of the convention
Despite this depressing findings, real progress has been made toward the universalization of the Convention on Cluster Munitions over the last seven years. The convention has now been signed by 119 countries, of which 102 are States Parties, making it a powerful arms control instrument. States are increasingly likely to issue official statements when these barbaric weapons are used.
Significant progress has also been made toward their elimination. Since the Convention entered into force, 29 States Parties have destroyed 1.4 million cluster munitions, equivalent to 93% of cluster munitions declared stockpiled by States Parties. Eight States have completed the clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munitions since the Oslo Convention came into force in 2010.
Clearing hazardous land in Colombia
In launching mine clearance operations earlier this year in Colombia, Handicap International teams conducted initial surveys to pinpoint hazardous areas throughout the country. Following the results, HI deployed a team of ten deminers to Venta, which is in the Cauca department, for a 45-day operation.Read more
Colombia: gearing up to demine
World's second most-densely mined country
Ravaged by 50 years of armed conflict, Colombia is the world’s second-most densely mined country, just behind Afghanistan. Mines and explosive remnants of war contaminate land in 31 of Colombia's 32 regions. Since 1990, the use of improvised explosive devices has become systematic, generating more than 11,100 casualties.Read more