Imagine No More Landmines: It May be Possible With 3D Printed Mine Kafon Drone

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[Image: AFP Photo/Jan Hessop]

In 1998, Massoud Hassani escaped Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, followed two years later by his younger brother, Mahmud. Today, the Hassanis, 32 and 30, respectively, are Dutch citizens living safely in Eindhoven, but the horrifying events of their childhood, including seeing their friends killed and maimed by landmines, never left them.

Well over 1,000 Afghani citizens were killed by landmines and improvised explosive devices in 2014, according to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor in Geneva – to say nothing of those injured or permanently maimed by stepping on the hidden explosives. Despite the fact that over 18 million unexploded devices have been retrieved from Afghanistan since 1989, the country – and many others – are still full of mines, and locating and removing them is a dangerous, time-consuming task. The Hassanis, however, may have come up with a way to make that task easier, faster, and safer.

In 2011, Massoud graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven with his final project, an object he called a mine kafon, from the Dari word “kafondan,” meaning “something that explodes.” The giant ball, which resembled a dandelion puffball, began as an art project, but it evolved, with help from Massoud’s brother, into an actual mine-clearing device that rolled around minefields, pushed by the wind, triggering mines with its plastic stalks.

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The invention won approval from several prominent anti-landmine organizations, and now, with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Defence, the brothers and their research and development company, Hassani Design BV, formed in 2013, have created the Mine Kafon Drone. The 10-pound, 3D printed drone is, according to the Hassanis, capable of clearing land mines up to 20 times faster than existing technologies.

11e70a88a3e49b4226738d74293fda87_originalThe drone works in a three-step process: First, it flies over the designated area to be cleared, scanning it with an aerial 3D mapping system and marking dangerous areas with GPS way points. Next, it travels over the field again, this time hovering at about four cm above the ground. A robotic metal-detecting arm detects the presence of mines and geotags them on the operator’s system to create a precise map of the mines’ locations. Finally, the robotic arm is equipped with pincers that carry small detonating devices, which the drone places on the detected mines. The mines are then detonated from a safe distance, using a timer.

The next step is a pilot study to demonstrate the drone’s capabilities to governments, non-governmental organizations and the UN, as well as to field test the drone in different locations and weather conditions. Following that, the Hassanis hope to begin batch production and have initiated a Kickstarter campaign to raise €70,000 ($77,464) by August 31. The four-day-old campaign has already raised over $20,000.

“With the Mine Kafon Drone we can save thousands of lives,” state the Hassanis on their Kickstarter site. “Civilians will have access to agriculture, water resources, education, and the freedom to play outdoor sports. A billion people currently cannot move freely for fear of mines. Can you imagine that we could liberate these people in all affected countries with the Mine Kafon Drone?”

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The Hassanis present the drone to Queen Maxima of the Netherlands. [Image: Kickstarter]

Pledge rewards range from a bracelet with the Mine Kafon logo (€12, or $13) to a three-day drone workshop (€7,000 or $7,746). Rewards for contribution amounts in between include a 3D printed/laser cut Mine Kafon Miniature, field mapping sponsorships, a beautiful lamp created by Hassani Design, and the Mine Kafon drone, open for developers, itself.

The biggest reward, of course, is the thought of a landmine-free world. It may be hard to envision, but the Hassanis think that the Mine Kafon can make it possible in as little as a decade. What do you think? Discuss further over in the 3D Printed Drone Detects Landmines forum over at 3DPB.com.

Watch the Kickstarter video below:

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