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A Cheap Landmine Detector That Acts Like A Tumbleweed

The Mine Kafon is designed to be blown by the wind until it encounters a mine and detonates it.

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In countries with war-ravaged pasts, concealed landmines pose a silent, hidden threat. Lurking underground for years, they risk throwing open fresh wounds in communities which are just beginning to heal.

Afghanistan, a country with a long history of war, is dotted with these subterranean dangers. According to one report, about 1 million Afghans live within 500 meters of areas expected to contain landmines. Recently, a group of 10 girls lost their lives when they encountered a hidden mine on a routine outing to gather wood. On average, landmines claim about 42 lives every month.

Massoud Hassani, a designer from the Netherlands who grew up in Afghanistan, has a cheap, efficient solution to clear a zone of mines: a mobile minesweeper in the shape of a dustball and as tall as a man.

This "Mine Kafon" is a spherical mobile made out of biodegradable plastic and bamboo. It’s light enough that the wind would—in theory—push it around naturally. But it is also heavy enough to set off landmines as it rolls over them.

"With each detonation the Mine Kafon loses just one or two legs so it could potentially destroy three or four landmines in one journey," Hassani explained at a TEDx talk in Utricht in November this year.

With a GPS device embedded in it, the Mine Kafon can be tracked as it tumbles through the Afghani wasteland. Hassani estimates the cost of materials is just $53, and it can be assembled on site.

Hassani designed the Mine Kafon as a graduation project at the Design Academy Eindhoven. Hassani has worked with a documentary maker Callum Cooper to make a short film about his new device and spread awareness about the issue of forsaken landmines. The Mine Kafon will be heading to New York where it will be displayed at the MoMA in March 2013.

It’s (sort of) easy to imagine these person-sized spheres rolling like giant tumbleweeds through the sandy desert. How they’ll tackle mountainous terrain though, like the rugged zone between Afghanistan and Pakistan, remains to be seen.