Landmines are one of the more controversial weapons of war. Hidden from sight, they maim and kill and remain long after conflicts end. According to the United Nations
, 110 million active landmines are scattered over 70 countries.
For five decades, Colombia has been plagued by insurgencies and countless, planted landmines. But, one company there may have found a way to defeat the explosives our eyes can’t see.
After decades of armed conflict, landmines remain buried all over Colombia. De-miners use high-tech gear to find these explosives, but that does little for civilians.
“What we wanted was to come up with an idea for a product that could greatly benefit the soldiers and farmers that are affected by these explosives,” said Jose Ivan Perez, creative director of Lemur Studio, an industrial design firm in Bogota. He’s been developing an insole that alerts the wearer of nearby landmines.
“The concept is a metal detector with a planar coil [sensor] made of conductive material that sends a signal to a device on the user’s wrist,” he said.
Perez says the signal will help the wearer either avoid or remove the explosive device. The Colombian government is welcoming the technology.
“If we are a country so affected by the mine problem, it is clearly justifiable and necessary that we develop our own national capabilities: research and technological development that allows for the de-miners, for example, to more safely go out to the fields to do their work,” said Daniel Avila Camacho, director of Colombia’s Mine Action Program.
Camacho says much of the blame rests with what he calls “illegal, armed groups.”
“Colombia continues to be one of the countries most affected by landmines in the world," he said. "To date, over the last 23 years, the country has had more than 10,600 victims.”
The effects are devastating, and not always fatal.
The landmine-detecting insole is still in the development stage, and with experts agreeing that it’s impossible to estimate the number of undetonated mines in Colombia… production can’t come soon enough.