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.
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
This blog was originally posted in January 2015.Read more
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.
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
During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese used the Ho Chi Minh Trail to bring supplies through Laos to support troops in Southern Vietnam. This route was heavily bombed by the U.S., most often with cluster munitions, and a high level of UXO pollution remains in the area today. Since being accredited as a demining operator there in 2006, Humanity & Inclusion has cleared more than 24,000 unexploded ordnances (UXO) in Laos, the most heavily bombed country, per capita, on earth. The following videos show our amazing Laos team's efforts to clear land and save lives.
Simon Elmont is a demining expert protecting civilians from explosive remnants of war in Iraq by clearing areas contaminated in previous and ongoing conflicts, including the territories occupied by the Islamic State. Simon recently made time to tell us about his work.Read more