The first deployment of the Mineseeker Airship is drawing to a close this weekend having successfully contributed much-needed assistance to the work of the United Nations' Mine Action Co-ordination Centre (MACC) in Kosovo.
Mineseeker arrived at the request of the MACC with the priority task of using its aerial sensors to both locate minefields and cluster bombs with their unexploded ordnance (UXO) as well as providing aerial reconnaissance to direct de-mining efforts.
Over the last 6 weeks, the Mineseeker team has surveyed 30 mine sites in all parts of the country, producing 60 hours of video tape and 500 still pictures. These will be included in the final reports soon to be handed over the MACC and integrated into its Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA). Most of this work will provide valuable value-added visual information to the de-mining tasks planned for 2001. However, results from surveys of some current mine sites have already provided immediate benefit in directing the resources and efforts of project teams. Examples include the Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) who were able to instantly apply the aerial information to improve the activity of a team operating in the challenging environment of a heavily wooded hillside, where on-the-ground information is limited.
John Flanagan, Programme Manager for the MACC in Pristina said "the Mineseeker has contributed to our greater understanding of the scope of the mine and UXO problem in Kosovo, and the data collected will be used extensively during the remainder of the clearance operations in 2000 and 2001."
Mineseeker is the only airship ever to be used in this type of role and many valuable lessons have been learned. However, its contribution and performance is now proven.
In the final week of Mineseeker's visit, the team has undertaken a trial of its prototype Ultra-Wide Band radar at a crucial stage of its development. This will provide vital additional data, from this operational environment, that will drive forward its role in detecting and delineating minefields and discriminating between plastic and metal mines.
The MACC's statement of requirements for Mineseeker were:
**Locate and identify existence of recorded minefields and identify reference points **Confirm extent of minefields **Strategic planning regarding the use of assets (dogs, machinery and access) **Confirm that fences and mine-markers are still intact **Confirm land use and prioritisation of tasks **To identify CBU strikes with known co-ordinates as well as searching for and identifying strike areas not related to known co-ordinates **Produce detailed records, define boundaries and enable strategic planning for clearance **Ensure all data collected, where appropriate, is entered into MACC database (IMSMA)
The Mineseeker airship arrived in Kosovo on Wednesday 4 October and began operational flights after 4 days of training and preparation. This is the first time an airship has ever been used in de-mining. The Mineseeker airship spent the first one and a half weeks operating in the Centre, North and East of Kosovo, providing airborne survey of mine and UXO sites as tasked by the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre in Pristina.
On Wednesday 18 October the Mineseeker airship moved to the Italian airbase at Dakovica, from where it completed the survey of the remainder of mine and UXO sites in the West and South of Kosovo, as tasked by the MACC.
During these surveys, Mineseeker carried the MACC Threat Assessment Officer who was able to direct the pilot to the search area and use a combination of digital photography and the high resolution Wescam camera to examine in detail areas of potential interest.
Mineseeker is a joint venture between The Lightship Group (TLG) and DERA (Defence Evaluation & Research Centre). It was launched in March 2000. The concept of Mineseeker is to use airships as aerial mobile sensor platforms for the survey and delineation of mined areas and unexploded ordnance (UXO).
First Mineseeker Airship Deployment Declared A Success In Kosovo