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News Clippings

'Spider' seeks mines
By Michael Fitzpatrick

A GIANT, spider-like robot is to help detect landmines in Cambodia from next month. Created by a research team at Chiba University's Faculty of Engineering in Japan, the 55,000 machine has metal-sensing legs that locate buried mines.

The device, controlled and monitored remotely via computer, is designed to enter a suspected minefield, holding a leg above the ground while the instrument determines if there's anything metallic underneath.

When a mine is detected the "spider" squirts paint on to the spot. The mine still has to be disarmed by people.

To aid the spider through such minefields it has been equipped with a small camera which relays images to operators watching from a safe distance. "So far we've found the robot to be highly reliable and its detection rate is much higher than that found when using manpower," said Kenzo Nonami, project leader.

"Working in Cambodia will prove quite a challenge as the robot has not yet had any trials in jungle conditions."

The robot is powered via a cable from the mains. "This means our machine can work 24 hours a day, every day. We don't have to worry about recharging batteries," said Nonami.

Once in operation it is hoped the six-legged "spider" will speed up mine clearance in Cambodia, where an estimated 90,000 mines - a legacy of the Indochina wars - have already been destroyed.

More than 2,000 people around the world are killed or injured by mines every year.

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