Mongooses 'can sniff-out landmines' (Sri Lanka)

Mongooses led by metal robots can be used to sniff out landmines, say researchers. The idea is to take the animals for "walkies" through mine fields, tethered to remotely controlled robots like dogs on leads. Researchers in Sri Lanka have trained mongooses, renowned for their acute sense of smell, to stand up and sniff the air when they detect buried explosives.


In a test, one robot-mongoose duo took just 30 seconds to find explosives hidden a few metres away from their start position.
The robot carried a small video camera, allowing its controller to monitor the mongoose's behaviour and mark the explosive caches on a map.
Robots capable of detecting landmines are expensive, while using people to seek out mines with metal detectors is time consuming and dangerous.

Engineer Dr Thrishantha Nanayakkara and colleagues from the University of Moratuwa in Sri Lanka believe mongooses and robots can solve the problem.

New Scientist magazine reported: "The Sri Lankan team says that the mongoose-robot duo should have a number of advantages over human de-miners.

"For a start, a well-trained mongoose should turn up fewer false positives than a metal detector. Dr Nanayakkara adds that with a combined weight of 10 kilograms, the robot and mongoose are unlikely to set off a mine. This makes them faster than a human, as they don't need to tread carefully."

The robot would cost less than £1,500 - a fraction of the price of a hi-tech machine equipped with mine-detecting radar. But demining expert Andy Smith, based in Monmouth, is sceptical. "Animals are not 100% reliable," he told New Scientist.

Von: 26.4.2008, PA News/

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