Project DETERMINE making GPR a more effective tool

The Find A Better Way-funded Project DETERMINE at University College London and Cranfield University is hoping to make ground penetrating radar (GPR) a more effective demining tool for humanitarian use.

GPR has long been looked to as a technology for providing improvements in demining efficiency, but has yet to make the impact many had hoped for.

‘Finding objects in the ground is not a challenge for GPR,’ explains lead researcher Federico Lombardi. ‘It is determining when those objects are a potential threat, or when they are just a rock or a bit of debris that is the real challenge. We are hoping to develop GPR technology further so that deminers can quickly and confidently determine what needs clearing, and what can be safely ignored.’

Project DETERMINE is hoping to advance GPR on two fronts. By altering the configuration of GPR units and developing improved algorithms, they hope to gather data that will help them determine the nature of the target object. GPR waves are able to penetrate most plastics used in anti-personnel mines, which creates an opportunity to ‘peek’ inside them. Unlike naturally occurring objects, landmines are complex and composite. Being able to quickly identify buried man-made objects is potentially an important gain for deminers.

Besides working on GPR design, the project is also gathering a library of GPR signals from common landmines in different conditions. By being able to match a signal from a suspicious object to one in their library, it is hoped deminers will be able to identify not just that an item is a threat, but an idea of what type of landmine they have found.

This library will also help deminers overcome what is a perennial problem for nearly all detection technology: non-cooperative soil. Mineral-rich soil, or soil with a heavy clay content, interferes with GPR signals. By having a stored library of signals given off by various landmine types in different soil conditions, it is hoped the improved GPR will still be able to recognize threats in any terrain.

Project DETERMINE, which is also supervised by Professor Hugh Griffiths, began in November 2015 and will continue until at least April 2018. At that point it is hoped a visual black-and-white display of objects as they are detected, along with an exact location and estimates of size, plus an indication of whether the object matches any known landmines in the area.

Federico is very excited not just to be working with Find A Better Way, but to be able to collaborate with the other Find A Better Way teams.

‘We are very aware that our work has a lot of crossover with Project SEMIS at the University of Manchester, which is combining GPR with advanced metal detection. It would be fantastic if our developments could ultimately be integrated into their work, and the work of other Find A Better Way projects.’