DETECTING PLASTIC LANDMINES

Hidden PFM-1 anti-personnel landmines are unexploded ordnance (UXO) devices that pose a difficult challenge to conventional landmine detection methods like metal detecting because the mines are primarily composed of plastic and only weigh 75 g. As a remnant of the Soviet-Afghan War, there are an estimated 10 million such devices scattered throughout Afghanistan. These mines remain in isolated locations, frequently out of reach of de-mining nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and act to thwart local economic and social development. The PFM-1s are infamously referred to as “toy mines,” as children often mistake the mines for toys and set off the 525 kg of cumulative pressure it takes to detonate them.

In order to locate these UXOs, a low-cost aerial platform was developed that combines a thermal imaging system mounted to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to detect the devices’ temperature difference from the surrounding environment. Results show that the PFM-1 landmines have a distinguishable thermal difference as well as differential apparent thermal inertia (DATI), which allows easy identification of these landmines remotely in GIS software.

Field trials of the method were conducted by randomly dispersing 18 mines along with the aluminum KSF-1 casing to mimic an ellipsoidal minefield of 8-10 x 18-20 m, simulating the mountainous Afghanistan terrain where most of the unexploded PFM-1 mines reside. Landmines were successfully identified through multiple thermal infrared imagery datasets with the thermal imaging system attached to the UAV flying at 10 meters above ground. Because the mines have different physical properties like reflectance, emissivity, and thermal conductivity, they heat and cool at different rates than the host geology. In the early morning hours, when thermal inertia is greatest, the mines can be detected based on their differential thermal inertia.

Applying these methods and technology to detect and remediate PFM-1nt lithium ion batteries used by th mines in post-conflict developing nations has the potential to save thousands of lives and significantly reduce the cost and time of mine detection, stimulating economic development.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

ABA Power

Jonathan Slocum, ABA Power, Bow, NH USA

This lightweight, quiet, portable emergency power pack can be used in any field. Unlike the current lithium ion batteries used by the military, which have low energy density and pose safety concerns, this system can reduce fatigue on soldiers by safely providing them with ten times the energy stored in current lithium-ion batteries. The emergency power pack uses patented aluminum fuel that can be reacted with almost any water source, including wastewater, to generate heat and hydrogen on demand. The hydrogen is fed to a fuel cell to generate clean electricity safely and silently.

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VForce® Green Clean Game-Changing Technology

John Clark, Gamechanger Technologies Pty L, Clayton, Victoria, Australia

The VForce is a major evolutionary step in fixed-wing aircraft development that provides a lighter less complex, high lift device deployment mechanism that does not require under-wing fairings and reduces fuselage shock body size — all combining to reduce parasitic drag. Cruise flight drag is reduced and less fuel is carried and consumed, allowing for a higher pay-load, increased range, and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It also allows for the morphing of rotorcraft blades with greater efficiency.

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Pelican: A New Approach to Fueling Space Exploration

Alex Dworzanczyk, Huntsville, AL USA

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) has a very precious resource: Earth’s atmosphere. With a frontal area of 100 m2, a spacecraft orbiting at 180 km collides with 13,500 kg of oxygen and nitrogen every year. In current spacecraft, those gas molecules bounce off, robbing the spacecraft of momentum and eventually dragging it down to its demise in Earth’s atmosphere. Pelican collector spacecraft capture and store these gas molecules to supply spacecraft and space stations in LEO with propellant and breathing gas.

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Composite Elastic Skins for Shape-Changing Structures

Christopher M. Cagle and Robin W. Schlecht, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA USA

Composite elastic skins cover shape-changing (morphable) structures, especially on advanced aircraft that change shapes in order to assume different aerodynamic properties. The composite elastic skin can include one or more internal skeletal layer(s) made of a metal or a suitably stiff composite. Using waterjet cutting, laser cutting, photolithography, or other suitable technique, regular patterns of holes are cut into the skeletal layers that are made into planar springs. The stiffness of the skin can be tailored through material choice, thicknesses of the skeletal and elastomeric layers, and sizes and shapes of the cutouts.

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