GPS-Equipped ‘Tumbleweed’ Is Eco-Friendly Minesweeper

© Massoud Hassani

The last time you went hiking, how much time did you spend worrying about stepping on a land mine? For millions of people, buried land mines are a constant threat, effectively trapping people within city limits. There are scores of land mines buried around the world, especially in Middle Eastern countries, and they're responsible for over 20,000 senseless deaths every year.

Countries are supposed to keep track of where mines are buried, but many have been abandoned or forgotten, creating vast swaths of land too dangerous to cross. Tired of being held captive by these deadly devices, Afghan designer Massoud Hassani was determined to find a cheap method of clearing an area of mines. His design resembles an overgrown tumbleweed made from low-cost, biodegradable materials.

According to his website, as a child in Afghanistan, Hassani would often make toy models to be blown around by the wind. Sometimes they would end up in a minefield, where he could not retrieve them. As an adult, he wondered if the same, light-weight design could be used to build a device capable of revealing and detonating those mines.

Using bamboo rods, Hassani fashioned a spherical device light enough to be propelled by the breeze. On the outer end of this tumbling starburst are mine-sized discs made from biodegradable plastic. At the heart of the sphere, called Mine Kafon, is a GPS computer. The idea is that these rolling minesweepers could be unleashed in an area known to be riddled with mines. The wind would blow it around randomly, and more than likely trigger a mine or two. It's possible that a stiff wind could blow Mine Kafon over a mine, triggering it quickly, before blowing away. In most cases, detonation would destroy the sphere as well as the mine, but if it does, the materials are relatively benign. As Gadgetose points out, the explosion triggers the integrated GPS to log the location of the mine so the area can be noted and swept at a later time.

"You can see were it went," explains Hassani, "where are thy safest paths to walk on and how many land mines are destroyed on that area." See it in action below.

Tags: Concepts & Prototypes | Gadgets