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Written By: Alaa Khamis, IEEE ROBOTICS & AUTOMATION MAGAZINE, December 2015.
The aim of civilian demining or humanitarian demining is to find and remove abandoned landmines without any hazard to the environment. According to Land-mine and Cluster Munition Monitor report in 2014 , there are more than 110 million active mines scattered in 68 countries. These landmines kill or maim more than 5,000 people annually, 46% of whom are children, and they cause 15,000–20,000 injuries each year. Landmines create millions of refugees and internally displaced people. While basic landmine detection and neutralizing theologies remain almost the same, land-mine technology improved dramatically. The conventional detection methods make the procedure of removing large numbers of landmines very slow, inefficient, dangerous, and costly. Robotics systems can provide efficient, reliable, adaptive, and cost-effective solutions for the problem of landmines and unexploded ordnances contamination.
Robotic competitions provide inspirational and motivational platforms for students, researchers, and laypersons to present their work to a wider forum with extensive media coverage. To foster robotics research and its applications in the area of humanitarian demining, Minesweepers: Towards a Landmine-Free World was initiated in 2012 as the first outdoor robotic competition on humanitarian demining. In this competition, each participating team con-structs a teleoperated/autonomous unmanned ground/aerial vehicle (UGV/UAV) that must be able to search for buried and surface-laid antipersonnel landmines. The position and the type of each detected object are visualized and overlaid on the minefield map. The robot must be able to navigate through rough terrain that mimics a real minefield. The competition contains three main categories.
Minesweepers–Juniors: For elementary and high school students where only metallic objects are available in the competition arena and only land-mine detection is required.
Minesweepers–Academia: For undergraduate and postgraduate students where only metallic objects are available in the competition arena and landmine detection and mine-field mapping are required.
Minesweepers–Industry: For professional companies where metallic and nonmetallic objects with different dimensions and profiles are available in the competition arena and land-mine detection, landmine imaging, and minefield mapping are required. The fourth edition of the competition was organized in 2015 by the Universidad Católica del Norte in Chile in collaboration with the Chilean Army Forces and with the support of the Chilean government. The competition is organized annually under the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS) Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology. An international workshop, “Recent Advances on Robotics and Sensor Technology for Humanitarian Demining,” took place as part of the competition. The land-mine detection equipment currently used by the Chilean army was also on display in the field of the competition. In total, 94 teams from eight countries signed up to participate. Next, 60 teams passed the eligibility criteria for local rounds (Figure 1) and only six teams from three countries qualified to participate in the final round in Chile (Figure 2).
The results of Minesweepers 2015 were as follows. The Elite, Misr University for Science and Technology, Egypt (first place in the Academia Category), Ten In Black, Mansoura University, Egypt (second place in the Academia Category), Most Challenging Team (National Bolivian Team, Bolivia), and the Za3fran Team, IDEL School, Egypt, (Juniors Cate-gory) won the “No Pain No Gain” Prize.
In the next editions of the competition, two categories will be added. The first one is to explore the applicability of multirobot systems in mimicking the standard operating procedure commonly used in landmine detection. The second category will be for Robot Operating System (ROS)-enabled mobile sweepers to make use of the interesting open-source modules produced from the Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge .
The ultimate goal of the Mine-sweepers competition is to put into practice the new strategic mis-sion of IEEE, “…to foster techno-logical innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity,” and to serve as an educational and a research forum to provide efficient, reliable, adaptive, and cost-effective solutions for the serious problem of explosive remnants of war. For more information about Mine-sweepers, please visit http://www.landminefree.org/.
 Cluster Munition Monitor 2014. International Campaign to Ban Landmines—Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC), 2014.
 R. Madhavan, L. Marques, E. Prestes, R. Maffei, V. Jorge, B. Gil, S. Dogru, G. Cabrita, R. Neuland, and P. Dasgupta, “2015 Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge,” IEEE Robot. Automat. Mag., vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 182–184, Sept. 2015.