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Field testing of new mobile systems designed for detection of mines and improvised explosive devices

Igor Parfentsev, Deputy CEO at Protection Group - UTTA JSC,
Candidate of Sciences (Engineering), Associate Professor
Vladimir Irkhin, Senior Project Engineer at Protection Group - UTTA JSC

Terrorist threats and localized war conflicts of today make the search and detection of explosive hazards a critical and extremely challenging task. To successfully solve this task, it is important to ensure personnel safety based on efficient engineering reconnaissance data, updated at a quick pace. This can directly influence overall combat mission efficiency on the field.

When developing specialized equipment designed to detect mines and improvised explosive devices, engineers seek to employ non-linear radio detection technology which can serve to ensure personnel safety while conducting engineering reconnaissance at a quick pace. Radio detection and ranging is a remote sensing method of detection that is expected to protect the personnel by localizing explosive objects at distances exceeding the impact zone of explosive devices. Moreover, the application of radio location technique allows obtaining the very precise location of explosive hazards, referenced to the grid, so precise that one can even determine physical dimensions of explosive objects. This fact provides a quicker terrain monitoring tempo and can speed up demining activities considerably.

An increased terrain monitoring pace can also be reached through mounting special equipment for explosive detection on mobile platforms, ground and airborne ones, like conventional motor vehicles, battery-driven vehicles, and unmanned drones. Special-purpose means for explosive hazard detection are sophisticated radio equipment systems, which should ensure electromagnetic compatibility with the radio electronic hardware installed on mobile platforms.

Electromagnetic compatibility of radio electronic hardware is an essential prerequisite for effective and reliable operation of detection equipment. The detection performance, achievable potentially by mobile-based explosive hazard detection systems, needs to be tested and evaluated under real-time conditions.

Experts at Protection Group - UTTA JSC have recently constructed fully operational specimens of mobile systems for remote detection of explosive objects, mounted on three different types of vehicles: all-terrain vehicle, rotor drone, and robotic electric quadricycle.

To evaluate detection feasibility and performance characteristics, a few specimens of mobile-based explosive detection equipment, mounted on ground and airborne vehicles, have been assessed in a series of field tests on a proving ground. The detection performance was evaluated through tests with standard radio electronic hardware, integral parts of mines and improvised explosive devices.

Mock-ups of remote-controlled improvised explosive devices selected as equivalents of radio electronic hardware featured a Kenwood TK-278 radio station, Apollo modifications 6,8 of a wireless Zamel bell; passive infrared motion sensor (PIR), and infrared sensor VT-01 taken from horizontal action mine TM-83, with non-contact fuze MVN-80.

The tests were conducted under summer conditions, by day, no artificial lights were used. Trees, shrubs, bare soil and grass-covered terrain formed a natural environment, as a backdrop for testing area.

Two fully functional dummies of a mobile system, airborne “Strekoza” (Dragonfly) and ground vehicle “Voznitsa” (Teamster), both capable of detecting explosive devices fitted with radio electronic actuators, were tested.

It was proved during the experiment that in practice such vehicles can sense remote explosive devices featuring radio electronic actuators; the experts were able to record most reliable and feasible operational and physical characteristics provided by the aforementioned dummies, “Voznitsa” and “Strekoza”. All measurements were taken both on the dry and wet surfaces.

The experiments have shown that improvised explosive devices controlled by radio can be detected from longer distances, if compared to other bombs.

Least detectable were low-frequency electronic components in the non-contact actuators. Additionally, it was found out that the level of the signal reflected from standard targets increases when the vehicle is moving. This increase in the reflected signal level is due to a target being represented as a set of discreet reflection centres, the phenomenon occurring on upper harmonics, if any finite aggregate of radio elements is available, during non-linear radio location process. Reflected objects, if moving from different centres, lead to random phase alteration in reflection waves. As a result, the sum echo signal starts fluctuating strongly, thus causing an increase of effective reflective area of radio electronic components contained in explosive devices, and correspondingly increases the range of their detection.

Accordingly, this allowed the ground-based system “Voznitsa” to come to a full stop at a safe distance from explosive objects, when moving at a maximum speed of 20 km/h; and with the airborne “Strekoza” system, this allowed to envisage a lighter transmission device and increase the airborne time of the drone.

It became clear during the experiments that detection equipment, if installed on aircraft, can deliver best results in spotting out explosive hazards, compared with ground-based mobile systems. In this case, the maximum range between a command point and aircraft, or the maximum range of detection, is actually the same as transmission range for command signal.

Taking into account the flight altitude at which aircraft locates explosive objects, the maximum range it can remotely sense explosive devices may vary from 300 m to 600 m, depending on the nature of terrain (field, forest).

If such special equipment for detection of mines and improvised explosive devices is mounted on the ground-based “Voznitsa” vehicle, the range of detection reduces to the value of dozens of meters, a fair enough range to ensure personnel safety when removing mines.

This field testing of mobile systems designed for detection of mines and improvised explosive devices has set new trends for further development of similar equipment, based on tested combinations of detection sensors installed on airborne and ground-based carriers. Integrating multiple detection sensors in one system will guarantee a wider range of detection for explosive objects and spare s time necessary for engineering reconnaissance before a convoy of military vehicles can safely access hazardous area.

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