The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has successfully completed field trials of a Phase I mine detection system prototype near mined areas surrounding Tuzla, Bosnia. The system, developed by Quantum Magnetics, San Diego, Calif., is based on a quadrupole resonance approach, which externally applies a radio-frequency magnetic-field pulse at a frequency specific to individual explosive compounds.
In a blind test in unprepared soil, the system found six antipersonnel-mine-like targets (five 50-gram RDX blocks plus one inert PROM-1, a metal-encased antipersonnel mine) and two RDX antitank-mine-like targets, with no false alarms. The test grid was 10 feet by 10 feet, marked into one foot squares, and contained six antipersonnel-mine-like targets and two antitank-mine-like targets, along with spent cartridges to serve as metal "clutter." The system detected both metal and non-metal targets, and did not experience false alarms due to the spent cartridges. A metal detector used on this same area suffered 34 false alarms. During the trials, the system proved to be both rugged and reliable under actual field conditions, including 90-degree (F) heat and constant rain. The field trials, hosted by 1st Cavalry and supported by the 91st Engineers, also allowed researchers to collect data about soil conditions and other environmental factors at known minefields in the Tuzla area. Gunnery Sergeant John Crane, of the U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., operated the system during the tests and noted, I found the system simple to operate and reliable, detecting both explosive and metal targets. It has the ability to resolve false alarms when they occur, which is a real advantage when searching for landmines." "This success, in an operational theater, under harsh but realistic field conditions, demonstrates that the first real technological breakthrough in mine detection is within our grasp. Soon, we may be able to declare victory over the landmine detection problem." noted Dr. Regina E. Dugan, DARPA's program manager. An additional field test of Quantum's Phase II prototype is planned for Spring 2000 to detect TNT, RDX, and metal-encased landmines of the type found throughout Bosnia, Kosovo, and other regions of the former Yugoslavia. TNT is the explosive found in most land mines and represents the most important technical challenge to overcome for this technology. The Quantum Magnetics system is one of a variety of approaches being investigated under DARPA's Unexploded Ordnance Detection program, which is researching the use of chemically specific detection of explosives to detect landmines. The Quantum Magnetics effort is co-sponsored by the U.S. Marine Corps System Command.
" Prototype Mine Detection System Tested in Bosnia