Getting Insights from stakeholders and Users

"The peacemakers cannot afford to falter" Professor Alejo Vargas. National University of Colombia.

Technologies for Humanitarian Demining Forum, Bogotá - Colombia

Figure 01: Technologies for Humanitarian Demining Forum, Bogotá - Colombia

At this stage, the project was invited to Colombia to be part of the Technologies for Humanitarian Demining Forum (see fig. 01) as an official research project of the Colombian Government and New York University. Such event took place in Bogotá on October the first 2015. During this meeting I had the opportunity to know personally among others; the director of the Department of Comprehensive Mine Action (DAICMA) Brigadier General Marine Rafael Colón, Professor Diego Alejandro Torres, coordinator of The Scientific and Technical Committee for Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (AICMA), and members from humanitarian demining operators from around the world.

Objectives of the meeting:

  1. To ensure that the research groups are developing technologies for humanitarian demining in Colombia, exchange experiences and potential future collaborations.
  2. Introduce technological developments of interest to the Department of Comprehensive Mine Action.

Under the name Augmented Reality Anti-Personnel Mines, the project was showed at the posters zone and got feedback from specialist on the Land-Mine field from all over the world, from both public and private sector. The main take aways from the poster's zone exhibition were:

  • The project has a great potential for being used in the military field to be added to existing technologies such as GPR (Ground Penetrating Radars) and metal detectors.
  • "How are you planning to find where the landmines are?"
  • Landmines in Colombia are mostly improvised devices, which means that they don't have an standard fabrication process. How are you planning to tackle this issue?
  • It would be very useful for the project's development to establish a link with the airforces to acquire reliable GPS information.

After the poster zone exhibition, there were short presentations from the main research groups from Colombian Universities. During those presentations, outstanding research projects were explained in greater detail, among them:

  • Simulation of Neutron Backscattering applied to organic material detection (N.C. Forero, A.H. Cruz and F Cristancho, 2007). "The Neutron Backscattering technique is tested when performing the task of localizing hydrogenated explosives hidden in soil. Detector system, landmine, soil and neutron source are simulated with Geant4 in order to obtain the number of neutrons detected when several parameters like mine composition, relative position mine-source and soil moisture are varied." (This project was highly inspiring, due to his rigorous research process and their promising future if the results are mixed with different technologies such as Data Visualization or Augmented Reality.)
  • Application of High Power Electromagnetics to Human Safety. "The aim of this project is the development of an impulse high power electromagnetic system to remotely detect and destroy antipersonnel landmines and in particular improvised explosive devices (IED). The system can also be used for testing of systems and components against Intentional Electromagnetic Interferences (IEMI)." This project was interesting due to the use of remote technology to avoid direct human interaction with the explosive devices which is one of the main concerns of both military and civilian deminers.
  • Air Robot for inspection and detection of anti-personnel mines: This project is an interesting approach on how computer vision could be implemented to an useful task. This robot is intended to serve as an inspection tool around the mine field, in order to detect IED's previously to demining labors.

Finally presentations from the main demining companies that are currently or in process to work in Colombia was done. During this presentation the directors of DDG (Danish Demining Group), The Halo Trust, CENAM (National center againts IED's and landmines of the Colombian National Army) and INDUMIL (The National Armory of Colombian Army) gave a talk of the main challenges and the main technologies to be addressed for current and future researchers. Several challenges were exposed during those presentations among them:

  • Characteristics of the Colombian Topology
  • Dense vegetation and the soil compositions as factor that hinders the demining process
  • Scattered planting mines, this particular feature makes the process even harder because of the lack of patterns to follow.

All these particularities make the Colombian case a unique case, requesting from their researchers a huge amount of creativity and innovation to create what the experts from the Colombian Government have denominated: Redundant Technologies for Humanitarian Demining process. Which in the practice means a mix of tools that provides to the users reliability and backup to avoid damage from APM and IED.