Mine Kafon; a bamboo tumbleweed that clears landmines

The "Mine Kafon" is Massoud Hassani's artificial tumbleweed, made from lightweight materials like bamboo. It is designed to be blown across uncleared minefields, detonating forgotten mines. It was Hassani's grad design project for Design Academy Eindhoven. It continuously broadcasts its location, captured via GPS, plotting out safe, mine-free paths through the fields.

Mine Kafon (via Make)


    1. Maybe you should watch the video?

      Edited to add: It’s very clear watching the video that the design is intended to press hard enough at its point of contact with the ground to set off a mine.

  1. Fantastic idea, he seems like a nice fella too.

    It’s worth pointing out, while GE’s logo is splashed over the video, that they have a patchy history with anti-personnel mines.

    They made components for them in the 90’s, and since then they’ve refused to sign up to an agreement for companies who say they won’t ever be involved in making them again.

    Although, military technology being what it is, if they did make landmines again, they’d probably be designed not to explode if one of these devices rolled over them.

    –ps: GE are sponsors of the video competition, not the Mine Kafon project

    1. So can’t we just have GE executives on pogo sticks instead? Karma and all that…

      Seriously though, this idea may/may not have its flaws but it’s heartening to know there are good people out there trying things like this.

      1. The project itself seems to have nothing to do with GE, it’s just that the film contest this video has been entered for is sponsored by them.

  2. From the film: “…therefore it could, potentially…”

    Double conditional, anyone?  False sense of security, anyone else?

    1.  Honesty, anyone?

      It could easily go on a journey and hit no landmines, there’s an element of probability. However, that still provides information to work with, ie: a GPS track of where it didn’t set off landmines.

      It’s only right that he talk about his product like a scientist, not a priest.

      1. Of course it is only right, given that he IS a scientist, and not trying to convert the viewers of a video-competition.

        “Ahem. This is my device. I am not an engineer, so I don’t know how good this is. There have been no double-blind studies of its effectiveness. Due to the irregularity of the power source, it could be completely useless. It is only right that I tell you it could be a complete waste of your time. That’s why I’ve come to you for your support.”

    2. I would say that double conditional is an accepted colloquialism for expressing additional uncertainty about a concept. For example, if something was very uncertain, one might say, “It could, potentially… just maaaaybe work.” Far from being a neophyte’s mistake, this looks to me like the speech of someone who is very comfortable in the language.

  3. While it’s certainly an interesting device and a compelling story, I can see a number of problems with it; first, it isn’t 100% effective, by which I mean that while it may clear a few mines in a field, one couldn’t rely on it to have fully cleared an area. Removing some is better than removing none, but leaving only one makes the area unsafe. Second, it can’t be directed, so it would likely wander out of the area. Third, it can’t be retrieved – if it’s disabled in the middle of a mine field, or isn’t being pushed around well because of the terrain, it’s just going to sit there until someone goes and gets it. Not exactly the kind of thing one wants to do in a minefield.

      1. As a partial solution it’s definitely an interesting device, but I guess my point was that mine clearing will still rely heavily on other means involving humans. Unfortunately.

        If somehow he could build an Arduino-powered guidance system in to it, controlling a sail or something, maybe he could make it more like a Roomba for landmines….

    1. What’s the problem — that it will stop in the middle of a minefield when the earth runs out of wind, or that it will wantder out of the area and not stop in the middle of a minefield?

      1. Yes. Or get stuck on a rock or not be able to continue because of missing “legs” in what might or might not be a minefield…

        1. In which case, that’s 40 Euros down the drain. SHUCKS!

          Isn’t that part of the point — these are supposed to be cheap and disposable, compared to existing technology (costing $1200 — yeah, Euros vs dollars, whatevs)? So cheap that failures can be ignored, just send out another?

          Fast, cheap, and out of control: because control is not needed.

          And again — you simultaneously complain that this cheap thing will either be stuck, or not stuck. They can’t BOTH be a problem.

          I don’t think either one is: if it rolls out, roll it back on through. If the wind stops the thing in the middle of the minefield, WAIT FOR MORE WIND. We haven’t even hit peak-wind yet, and the industry is constantly finding new sources….

    2. Why couldn’t you go and retrieve it? If it’s rolling and exploding land-mines as it goes, there’s going to be a clear path, along which you could follow, all the way to the disabled device. There you could repair it or carry it back. You might have to walk a kilometre long path when the device is only a couple of metres away as the crow flies, but that’s not a problem.

          1. Ah, you mean which someone might have if they had hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. Sorta undermines the fact that the minesweeper is inexpensive if people can only know if its effective (or safe to retrieve) if they have the right equipment, access to the Internet, etc.

  4. It continuously broadcasts its location, captured via GPS, plotting out safe, mine-free paths through the fields.

    The word “safe” needs qualifying with several gazillion asterisks: even if you ignore the large gaps between the feet and assume coverage is perfect, GPS error is rather greater than the width of the path cleared, which means you don’t really have a safe path at all.

  5. While we run our mouths off in the comments, he’s actually doing something worthwhile. It’s a great concept; I hope it works and he gets support to build hundreds of them. It wouldn’t work in Bosnia, unfortunately – too mountainous and wooded around Sarajevo. 

    1. So because he’s “doing something” nobody can comment on it? Sure, commenting and critiquing is easier than conceiving and creating, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be able to comment. It’s a valuable part of the process – maybe he’ll get valuable feedback from the comments himself so he can make it better, or someone else will be inspired by the comments to think of a different design for something similar. We don’t just shut down the market place of ideas because the people chatting haven’t made something better yet.

  6. Part of the intent is to raise awareness of landmines.  There are about 10,000,000 unexploded land mines in Afganistan, about 20,000,000 in Iraq, each one a death or mutilation waiting to happen…

  7. Unfortunately not all minefields are flat, featureless ‘fields’; they have vegetation, rocks, ditches, slopes etc. Nor would you trust this “clear” a minefield, simply to give an indication that there are mines in this particular place and perhaps give an indication of how many. It’s a nice, simple idea but seems to have a narrow range of use.

    1. Also there is the problem of you don’t know what these devices have cleared or can control exactly where they go.  Plus they only cover a very small track.  As others mention it seems more like an awareness campaign.

  8. As ironic as it may sound, I say just use more explosives.

    Mine-clearing Line Charges (MLCLs) have a long history of highly effective usage. Unless a mine is specifically designed to resist both sympathetic detonation and shock-based fuze triggering (which is rare), you’ve got a quick and relatively easy solution.

    The major obstacles aren’t technological – they’re societal. People would rather put their efforts into building new weapons to use on one another than into saving innocent lives from the weapons of wars long over. The current MLCL systems could be a lot cheaper and less bulky, but they’re based on outdated technology and there’s little pressure to update the designs. It’s a lot easier to get the money and resources to kill people than it is to save them.

    1. Line charges are only moderately effective. As are even-still-cheaper fuel-air explosions.

      You get most or nearly all proper functioning mines, but can’t guarantee that, and stuck or malfunctioning ones linger and still need to be otherwise cleared. Clearing rapidly for combat operations has acceptable risks that later children playing or farming won’t accept.

      What any of these do is reduce the active mine density a lot. That helps reduce the risk to the eventual manual deminer teams, at least in terms of number of clearings they have to effect.

  9. Robot tech needs to get cheap enough to send some wee spider bots with diggy thingies poking around.

    If they get good enough, they could disassemble the mines and photograph all the manufacturer logos so we know who to boycott!

  10. Oh, and dunno why neither I or anyone else managed to think of this sooner, but…

    Paint it rainbow colors! KATAMARI DAMACY!

  11. Does anyone know how well cows do at this sort of thing? If an area is used for grazing, does it become safe after a while? (at the expense of the cows, obviously). I’m not suggesting that animals be used deliberately for this, just wondering what the effect is.

  12. If nothing else, this used in conjunction with other demining procedures will lower the costs of getting rid of the mines in Afghanistan by quite a bit.  Most of the mines laid there are the small scattered dragons tooth types (soviet copies) or PM-1 style mines.  There are no (or very few) smart mines or landmine control systems that detect footsteps and “decide” to fire one or more mines in a “semi intelligent way” like blowing someone up then deactivating mines in the area until help has reached the person then reactivating mines all around the wounded person and the aid personnel…. yeah that really exists.

  13. If I recall correctly. some mines don’t go off until stepped on the second time, to defeat roller clearance etc.  Nasty toys but necessary sometimes.

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