Minefield robot goes where humans fear to tread

CNN News

May 6, 1999

EDINBURGH, Scotland (CNN) -- A Scottish engineer's robotic
invention has the potential to save lives and limbs from the
millions of land mines buried throughout the world,
including the Balkans. But the project could be doomed
because of a lack of funding.

The tripod-like machine, called the Dervish, can roll
through mine fields stepping on buried mines, causing them
to detonate and surviving the blast.

Every day, about 25 people are killed or wounded by one of
tens of millions of land mines buried throughout the world.
Some wait decades to claim victims, and new ones are being
laid in strife-torn areas such as the Balkans.

Some of the mines are packed with enough explosives to take
out tanks and vehicles. So devising a machine that can take
the punishment is no mean feat.

In operation, the Dervish inches forward, moving in circles
to cover every foot of ground. Its open-frame construction,
heavy steel wheels and V-shaped motor casing are designed to
endure countless blasts.

In a recent demonstration, the robot's developers blew up a
car with a pound of exposives -- the force of about 11
anti-personnel mines -- then subjected the Dervish to the
same blast.

Anti-personnel mines are designed to maim victims

The blast blew out the bottom of the car, but the Dervish
suffered no damage.

However, the machine was unable to climb out of the
resulting crater.

"I'm not sure this particular wheel will have enough torque
to get out," says inventor Stephen Salter of the University
of Edinburgh. "But the new design will."

Along with new wheels, the latest model of the Dervish is
designed with a hydraulic motor. A computerized box links
the robot to a remote-control navigation system.

But Salter says the project is out of money, because the
system hasn't proven to be 100 percent effective.

Money is going instead to develop sophisticated land mine
sensors, which could take years to perfect.

Meanwhile, current methods require that people go into
fields with mine detectors. Salter says the Dervish would be
less expensive, less dangerous and can hit the ground

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