Deakin University engineering student Zoran Najdovski did not want to make “just another robot”. No science fiction—he wanted to create something useful.
The result is a cost-effective, robotic mine detector. The device has piqued the interest of the Australian Army, which will visit Deakin early next year to inspect it.
The four-wheel robot is autonomous, in that it maps its own area, then moves up and down that space, detecting where the mines are by using a metal detector and a central computer processing unit.
“A lot of students develop robots with no particular application. I did a lot of web-based research on landmines and felt that this would be something really worth doing,” Mr Najdovski said.
“Seeing Iraq and knowing what has gone on in places like Vietnam and Cambodia was part of the impetus—although there has been a lot of work done on safely locating landmines, I felt there had to be a smarter way of approaching the problem.”
Mr Najdovski’s robot is also inexpensive to make: the components cost about $1500. He said to manufacture them in lots would amount to about $5000 per machine.
“There [are] about 100 million landmines in the world and only 5000 to 20,000 are recovered each year,” he said.
“In doing that, there are about 28,000 injuries to people each year who are involved in that retrieval and something like this could really reduce that number.”
Mr Najdovski, 24, is coy about the interest shown by the army, saying only that officials approached him and are expected to come and test the machine early next year.
Deakin chair of engineering Saeid Nahavandi said the mine-detecting robot was one of the better designs he had seen in his years of teaching because of its usefulness.
“Robots are great to play with—all the science fiction stuff—and we make them for industry for use in factories and the like, but something like this is particularly useful,” Professor Nahavandi said.
“Having a mobile unit that you can deploy without the need for a person to go into that area is very, very important technology. It saves lives.”
Copyright 2004 Nationwide News Pty Limited
Copyright © 2002 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.