Land Mines

[PROJECT] Fall 2019

In each issue you’ll see how WPI students put theory into practice through projects.
September 13, 2019

Removing a Deadly Threat

Student Teams Design a Robotic System That Destroys Land Mines


1. The Big Idea

Land mines kill or injure nearly 6,800 people worldwide each year, according to the Red Cross and UNICEF. In some countries, huge tracts of fertile land are left fallow or undeveloped because they’re littered with mines which can remain active for up to 50 years. While militaries and governments can detonate mines with tanks or reinforced bulldozers, this option is too expensive for small towns and villages. Three Major Qualifying Project teams have worked on a dual-robot system (a rover and a drone) that will detect and destroy land mines safely and inexpensively.

2. 2018–19 Participants

Dillon Arnold ’19, mechanical engineeringrobotics engineering

Nicholas Lanotte ’19, robotics engineering

Benjamin Wagner ’19, mechanical engineering, robotics engineering

Advisor: Craig Putnam, senior instructor, computer science; associate director, robotics engineering

3. How it Works

SEARCH GRID: The autonomous rover uses GPS and a customized Google Maps app to define a search area. It then autonomously plans and navigates a search grid within that area.

DETECTION: A metal detector on the rover’s arm sweeps back and forth, scanning for as little as a gram of metal. When metal is detected, the rover’s arm rotates, bringing a can of spray paint into position. The rover paints the spot and sends its GPS coordinates to the drone.

DETONATION: When the area has been completely searched and the rover has moved to safety, the drone flies in and drops payloads on the designated spots to explode the land mines.

TECH USED: A Husky A100 ground vehicle serves as the rover’s base and a platform for the sensors, metal detector, Google Maps Navigation system, and other components designed by the students. The teams used 3D printing to make some components; they adapted existing algorithms for communications, autonomy, and search grid creation.

4. What's Next

The rover has been the primary focus of the second and third project teams. The first team worked on the drone, which must be capable of carrying a payload heavy enough to explode a mine. In 2019–20 the final MQP team will complete the drone, make both robots waterproof, upgrade computer systems as needed, and finalize the communications systems to produce a fully operational system.