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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Landmine probe boost at college

A MAJOR technological breakthrough has been made in the quest to clear landmines in war-torn countries, thanks to research carried out in Barrow.

VISIT: Sir Bobby Charlton discussing mine detection with Ken Seddon, the head of technical engineering at Furness College (right) and university lecturer Bob Machin in November 2011

The landmines research charity, Find A Better Way, has unveiled the hi-tech prototype probe to its trustees.

The technology could significantly improve the detection of landmines and help save thousands of lives.

The charity, founded by Manchester United and 1966 World Cup hero Sir Bobby Charlton, financially supports research by engineering technologists at Furness College.

The football legend visited the college last month and in November last year to witness the work first-hand.

Ken Seddon, head of technical engineering at Furness College, has led the research effort.

He said landmine detection has effectively remained the same since the Second World War, meaning soldiers risk their lives prodding the ground with a bayonet until they hit a potential mine.

But a huge amount of time is wasted digging up tree roots and battleground debris because there is no way of telling what object has been struck by the bayonet.

Mr Seddon said: “We have been able to design a prototype probe which can identify landmines via their unique acoustic signature, making detection far easier and saving a lot of time.”

John Edees, Find A Better Way chairman, said: “The benefits of developing an advanced landmine probe are clear.

“For example, it is estimated that to clear Afghanistan of landmines, it would cost 40 to 50 million US dollars a year and take 10 years to complete.

“This breakthrough could help reduce substantially the time taken.”

Work will now continue on the development of a probe which can be used as a hand-held manual device, or an automatic remotely-controlled machine.

Furness College runs degree courses in electrical and mechanical engineering and under-graduate students have worked on the landmine probe prototype as part of their studies.

Mr Seddon said: “The students involved are inspired by the goal to reduce the suffering caused by landmines and are very keen to move this project forward.

“There is a considerable amount of testing still to be done, but we now have a working prototype for the first time.”

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