We have built an unmanned excavation robot protoype which makes demining safer and more efficient. It is currently on the fourth version.
The proliferation of landmines in war-stricken countries is a massive hurdle to sustainable development, as they are often hidden in farmland, paths to schools and other areas of countryside. At Demine Robotics, we believe everyone should have the freedom to walk, no matter where they are born or their socio-economic status.
Current methods are slow and dangerous, and we have developed an unmanned ground vehicle which excavates landmines from the ground. Our technology is remotely operated, non-destructive and up to 5 times faster than manual excavation.
We want to see a landmine free world where everyone has the freedom to walk, and we need your help to reach our goal!
The demining process has 3 key steps: detection, excavation and detonation. The current status quo for demining in post-conflict areas is manual detection using metal detectors and prodders, trained animals such dogs and rats to detect explosives, and mechanical clearance using armored vehicles equipped with flails, tillers, rollers or similar devices.
In many conditions, the only method that meets the United Nations' International Mine Action Standards (IMAS) requirements to clear all landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERWs) for humanitarian demining is manual detection and disarmament. The process is typically slow, expensive and dangerous.
Depending on how deep the mine is buried in the ground it can take up to an hour to excavate just one landmine or UXO. This is on top of wearing 5kg of protective gear, often in the sweltering heat.
One wrong move is the difference between life and death for manual deminers, resulting in 63.8% of humanitarian mine clearance casualties from 2005 to 2010.
We have built an small, unmanned excavator robot prototype called "Jevit". Jevit means life in Khmer, and is a robot which makes demining safer and more efficient. It is blast protected by metal plating and can be used as a platform for multiple detection equipment and robotic manipulators to handle UXOs.
Our remotely piloted system is deployed after detection of suspected buried munitions. Jevit can be remotely operated to excavate a landmine, UXO and IEDS within minutes from a distance of up to 300m while monitoring from the safety of a control system.
Jevit excavates explosives without detonation by using a patented excavating mechanism that efficiently penetrates earth beside and ultimately underneath the explosive with three individually rotating augers which then lift. The mechanism is robust to penetrate any soil type and practical in a wide range of operating conditions.
The penetrating tool is lifted, exposing the explosive, which then can be safely disposed through controlled detonation or defused.
Jevit is capable of manoeuvring in rugged minefield terrain and easily transportable on a pickup truck. We want to ensure Jevit can give anyone the freedom to walk, and are committed to rolling Jevit out worldwide.
Manual demining is slow, dangerous and expensive. There are other mechanical solutions currently in use and these range from repurposed construction and farm equipment to machines designed and built specifically for mine and ERW clearance.
There are many kinds of machines in use in humanitarian demining. Machines can be an invaluable tool for surveying an area for the presence of mines if information is scarce, preparing the land for clearance (removing vegetation, clearing rubble, etc) and, in some cases, expediting the clearance process.
Due to the complexity of the clearance process and the extremely high quality standards, machines that are designed to collect, expose, or destroy mines cannot ‘clear’ land. Unfortunately, these machines have in some cases been known to ‘kick out’ explosives in front or to the side, push mines deeper into the ground, or leave partially damaged mines that are unstable - making clearance more dangerous for deminers.
It is important to note that all machines require a follow-up search by a manual deminer or mine detection dog using the same approach as if the machine hadn’t gone before.
However, unlike Jevit, the process of other mechanical solutions can make it more dangerous for demining clear-up.
Manual demining is labour intensive and slow, as it can often take up to an hour to unearth just one landmine. During live munition testing Jevit remotely excavated buried landmines and UXOs in under 60 seconds. Imagine how many more land can be cleared if we can roll out Jevit to landmine affected areas worldwide!
Our approach with Jevit is fundamentally different from existing mechanical processes. Rather than aiming to process large amounts of ground without human interaction, Jevit instead does spot-processing: excavating small plots of soil where detectors indicate a potential threat.
Jevit integrates directly into the manual clearance process, making the most dangerous and time consuming part of the deminers work, manual excavation, fast and safe.
Jevit weighs less than 600kg and can be transported in the back of a pickup truck. This is incredibly important to NGOs with limited resources - it means that Jevit can get to and from sites with the trickiest access, with minimal added headache at the start and end of day in the field, and without the need to purchase an additional vehicle dedicated to transportation.
Jevit costs a small fraction of the typical cost of demining machines currently available both in capital and upkeep. This is critical for organizations on the ground who are aiming to maximize their impact with their donor-based funding. The overwhelming majority of deminers hired by clearance organizations are locals who greatly benefit from the income that these jobs bring.
Jevit’s low cost and integrated approach with manual demining means that jobs can continue to be created for locals, and the risk in those jobs is greatly reduced.
We have been operating out of Cambodia since 2017 to build and manufacture Jevit, as well as understand the extent of the issue. Cambodia is still one of the most landmine impacted countries in the world with over 64,000 casualties recorded since 1979. Through working out of Cambodia, we have been able to work with landmine clearance NGOs to field test Jevit and ensure everyone has the freedom to walk. We are currently working with other organisations to test Jevit in cluster munition fields.
We want to bring Jevit to communities all over the world, and give everyone in landmine affected areas the freedom to walk. In order to achieve our goal of creating a landmine free world, we need your help.
In order to achieve our goal, we aim to develop Jevit to operate not just with landmines, but with other ERW such as UXOs and IEDs. Your support will go to building an additional machine for field testing with landmine clearance NGOs. Once we are able to properly field test Jevit, we will be able to roll Jevit out worldwide and save thousands of lives.
Growing up in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Richard Yim was exposed to the dangers of landmines from a young age, as he was constantly told where to play and where to walk. His first encounter with a landmine was at 8 years old when his aunt was killed by stepping on a landmine.
Richard moved to Canada with his family at the age of 13, and noticed how Canadians had the freedom to safely go wherever they wanted, without the fear of landmines. It was here Richard realised he wanted to give everyone in landmine affected areas the same freedom to go to places they want to go without fear of death.
During his studies in mechanical engineering at Waterloo University, Yim came up with the idea for the machine as part of a school project. Originally named "The Landmine Boys," Richard turned his project into a start-up company in 2016.
We care about making demining safer and more efficient, and ensuring everyone in landmine affected areas has the freedom to walk.
Risks and challenges
1. The Devil is in the Details
We’ve been able to take our current prototype out for testing and feedback from the demining teams. We’ve gotten lots of compliments, but (more importantly) we’ve received lots of constructive feedback. We have learned that the devil really is in the details when using machines for demining. We’re thankful to have people and organizations who are keen to help us work out the kinks and get the Jevit into operation. Learn, iterate, learn, iterate!
2. Field Trials
Once we’ve made improvements based on what we’ve learned in the field so far, we need to take it to the next level and get an official “this thing works in real, harsh conditions” stamp of approval. If we can’t get the tech to work reliably through rigorous testing, the Jevit won’t be digging up any mines.
3. Bomb-Proof Quality
Bomb-proof isn’t just a saying for us - it’s a core requirement. Designing a machine to be inexpensive and lightweight typically is in conflict with being blast resistant and ultra-reliable. We’re working on creative engineering solutions to get the best of both worlds, but we’ve got some work to do.
4. Prototype to Production, and Beyond
Building one machine is easy (relatively speaking). It’s often said that building many machines is the hard part. We will start out building everything in-house so that we can address manufacturing issues quickly. As we scale and make the Jevit available to as many mine-contaminated countries as possible, we’re going to have a slew of challenges with logistics, regulations and location-specific demining processes.
While thus far we’ve been able to make huge progress with very limited resources, prototyping machines isn’t cheap. We believe in our mission and are pushing towards being sustainable - every little bit helps us get closer to saving land, limbs and lives (and helps us keep the air conditioning on in our Cambodia office).
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