INSA - Space Assets for Demining Assistance (SADA)

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Objectives of the service

Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) still kill or maim civilians every day, even long after conflicts are over. For landmines alone, an estimated 110 million live units have been scattered in about 70 countries since 1960. At the current rate of clearance of about 500.000 mines per year and assuming no additional mines are laid from now on, it could still take hundreds of years to find and clear all the landmines around the world. Each year the remaining units claim 15,000 to 20,000 new victims. In addition, landmines and ERW dramatically hinder the recovery of economies wounded by a conflict, because resources located within areas such as arable land, infrastructure and water suspected of mine contamination cannot be exploited.
SADA proposes that combination of integrated applications based on remote sensing, navigation and satellite communications might provide a step forward in the performance of practice of mine action land release, with respect to landmines, but also ERW.
Analysis of satellite images, in situ data and historical data will lead to technical conclusions helping decision makers in their tasks of land prioritizing and allocating the use of mine action resources to improve socio-economic impact as well as avoiding unnecessary deployments of clearance activities in non-contaminated areas. Navigation and satellite communications help to streamline field activities, logging and shared database access, as well as to support collection and georeferencing of airborne data.
To achieve this, three companies have joined to design an integrated system and a proof of concept. The consortium combines expertise in remote sensing products provision and operational systems development, satellite communications provision and mine land release expertise.

The objectives of the present study are the following:

  • To produce a concept for a user-driven integrated system and services based on existing space assets supporting the land release process in mine action at its various levels.
  • To assess, together with the users, the system and its associated services, including its added value and that of the space assets, and analyze its economic and non-economic viability.
  • To prepare a roadmap towards sustainable services, including definition of a demonstration project, the formal involvement of key stakeholders in that demonstration project (such as users, service providers, etc), as well as recommendations for future, improved land release services.

Users and their needs

More than 60 Countries affected by landmine contamination could be the potential users of the system proposed in this study. Land release services are relevant for at least three user segments: decision makers, operators and donors.

  • Decision makers in this context are the entities that decide on prioritization of regions for survey and further land release effort. They may be the government authorities supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), National Mine Action Authorities (NMAA), or, in their absence, UNMAS. They will need socio-economic impact maps to reliably estimate the mine/ERW problem in their country, as well as an overview of the resources and difficulties involved in implementing the associated mine actions.
  • At the operational level, Mine Action Centers (MAC) or UNMAS coordinate the regional activities of the demining organizations, which may be NGOs, military, commercial demining companies or the MAC themselves. They need services to support operational planning and the demining operations.
  • Finally donors require access to a reliable indicator of progress.

The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty aims to provide momentum to demining activities and targets clearance of mine affected areas within 10 years after ratification. Landmine Monitor estimates that as of August 2009 there may be left, worldwide, less than 3,000 km2 of contaminated land, in which the vast majority of the remaining mines is concentrated. The issue is that of all the land area that has been subjected to meticulous clearance effort, in retrospect only about 2.5-10% was found to be contaminated - the remainder could as well have been released without clearance effort. This fact represents a major and unnecessary cost factor, considering that the average cost of clearance is around 1 $/m2, whereas well-informed land release (without such clearance efforts) costs only 0.02-0.05 $/m2. With the help of new methodologies and technologies it should thus be feasible to resolve most of the (historic) landmine problem within the next few decades.

Service/ system concept

From a sustainability and marketing point of view the consortium will explore the cost-efficiency and sustainability of different types of products and services which may come out of this study. Examples include:

  • A service based on Satellite and airborne data processing, together with in situ and historical data fusion, where the consortium acquires images and which outcomes will be integrated in the decision makers operational procedures.
  • A satellite communication on demand service deployed in remote areas where other communications networks are not available.

Space Added Value

Earth Observation data, Satellite Communication and Satellite Navigation are considered of assistance when it comes to:

  • produce socio-economic impact maps, for decision makers to set mine action priorities.
  • provide information to support post-clearance assessment in a visual, quantified an objective manner. This is of particular interest for attracting donors confidence and increasing their willingness to invest in mine action projects.
  • reduce Suspected Hazardous areas and to identify low-risk areas that could be released without performing the costly and risky step of clearance, by combination of indicators of mine/ERW presence and indicators of mine absence. Those indicators can be derived from historical records, geo-referenced in-situ, air borne and space borne observations. They can be for instance features of topography, land and infrastructure usage, warfare evidence such as trenches or damaged buildings, terrain derived confrontation lines, etc...
  • characterize the environmental setting of a hazardous area (humidity, slope, surface roughness), which helps select the most appropriate detection tools and the right time for their deployment.
  • support the geo-referencing of data and the navigation needs for non-technical surveys, stand-off detection, demarcation of hazardous zones, close-in detection and clearance.

Product Features

The concept definition shall take into account at least the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA), a tool that is already well-established in the community. It shall be integrated into the architecture for the services provision. Space assets shall be a key part of the architecture, allowing filling the gaps identified with the already used technologies. The architecture of the system is presented in Figure 1 below:

Figure 1: System architecture overview

Data processing centre will be in charge of processing the remote sensing data and make it available to the National Mining Action Center (NMAC).

  • At National Mine Action Center (NMAC), the latest version of the IMSMA software is installed. This is the National centre where the decision makers need all the information for prioritization of regions for survey and further release effort. This module is the interface with the remote sensing processing center, and all the products obtained are received through this module. It will be in charge of distributing this to the different regional MAC (RMAC).
  • At regional level, regional Mine Action Centers or United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) coordinate the regional activities of the demining organizations, which may be Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), military, commercial demining companies, or the MAC themselves. It is based on an instantiation of the IMSMA software, which synchronizes with the National MAC for information update.
  • Hand held terminals are also included in the architecture, with the possibility to communicate with the regional MAC either over the Mobile network when available or through satellite commercial services in case of mobile network non availability.

The architecture is based on a distributed configuration, following the approach of IMSMA solution.

Current Status

The project kick-off was on January 3, 2011. The SADA system has been designed and partially prototyped and validated with the users (including Mine Action Centers from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Cambodia and the operator FSD). The final presentation was successfully carried out the 25 April 2012 at ESTEC. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) and several National Mine Action Centres in Europe, Asia and Africa have expressed strong interest in the INSA services, in particular suspected hazard area definition support, affordable differential positioning and post-release land use reporting,  and have indicated their commitment to support a follow-up demonstration project. 

Prime Contractor(s)

Status Date

Updated: 15 June 2012 - Created: 15 February 2014