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Cycle 8 (2019 Deadline)

A database of field-based radar images to assist in the safe removal of landmines in Colombia

PI: Roberto Bustamante Miller (, Universidad de los Andes
U.S. Partner: Sarah Kruse, University of South Florida
Project Dates: January 2020 - December 2020

Project Overview:
 8-166 Bustamante site visit
Kelly Robbins (NAS) with PEER PI Roberto Bustamante and his team Nicolás Rocha, Jorge Mario Becerra, and Daniel González in the GPR test lab at UniAndes, March 2020
This project is aimed at reducing the number of victims of anti-personnel landmines (APL). The PI Dr. Bustamante and his team will gather a large amount of useful information for APL detection using ground penetrating radar (GPR) in various locations in Colombia where APLs are found. Many of the APLs deployed in Colombian territory are Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), of non-standard design and construction. Therefore, traditional detection methods such as metal detectors are not as effective. By using GPR and applying a good knowledge of the local conditions, IEDs can be detected effectively. Currently there is very little available data on Colombian conditions for GPR for IED detection. Therefore, standard equipment developed by GPR manufacturers is not well-adjusted for field use in Colombia. Through their previous work, these PEER researchers have identified several key pieces of information required to enhance the detection of IED with GPR, including radar images of realistic detection scenarios; geological, environmental, and electrical characterization of the fields; and electrical characterization and scattering parameters of the IEDs. Through this project, they will obtain the required data by surveying formerly APL-affected fields with an adapted version of their current laboratory-based GPR as a portable field-based GPR for radar imaging. They will also characterize soils and IEDs through measurement and simulation and assess environmental and geological conditions, recreating scenarios in simulation with modified parameters. Their U.S. partner Dr. Kruse has experience in the field of GPR and has developed algorithms for GPR data processing. She will serve as a main source of knowledge for detailed characterization of the geological and environmental parameters of the geographic territories. Her algorithms will serve as a test subject for the team’s measurements, helping to validate them. The PI and his group will also create a close working relationship with demining units from various organizations, bringing their vast practical know-how to bear on the problem to create better procedures and standards for safer and more effective demining. The ultimate aim is for these procedures and standards be incorporated into national policies for humanitarian demining.

For Colombia to transition to a durable peace, there is a need to promote more inclusive development in rural areas and suppress issues that drive conflict. Many rural areas in Colombia have been affected by APL deployment, which is not only a violation of human rights but also a significant detriment to economic growth in the affected areas. The Government of Colombia has shown commitment to address this issue in the Victims and Land Restitution Law (Law 1448 of 2011), through the creation of the Directorate for Integral Action against Antipersonnel Mines (DIAAM). The DIAAM plays a key role in the post-conflict scenario, as it is in charge of all the technical and social aspects of APL clearance in Colombia. By creating better procedures and providing more information for GPR detection enhancement, this project should facilitate more effective implementation of the Victims Law, thus supporting the Government of Colombia in its own initiatives. Providing more secure access to land is critical to develop the rural economy and stabilizing conflict areas. By enhancing APL detection technology, the project should also be useful in helping rural communities gain better access to economic opportunities.

Project updates:
Activities in the first quarter involved recruiting the project team, beginning to test and validate available soil characterization algorithms, and evaluating potential field measurement sites for a planned data collection campaign. In March 2020, the PEER team was visited by  NAS and USAID representatives from Washington DC. During the site visit, Dr. Bustamante and his team was able to show his lab and work in progress. During the second half of 2020, the team plans to work with the Halo Trust on creating and disseminating policies, programs, and standards.  Due to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic the construction of the portable GPR, tests of the equipment, and meetings planned with external agencies for selection of the measurement areas have been delayed, and planned attendance at conferences cancelled. 

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