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INSA has been selected by ESA for the “Space Assets for Demining Assistance” project

INSA leads a Consortium with EXPAL and HISPASAT that has been selected by ESA for the “Space Assets for Demining Assistance” project in the framework of the Integrated Applications Programme (IAP). Remote sensing information is useful in identifying minefields and determining their boundaries. The satellite solution proposed by INSA will improve the minefield clearing process, thus helping to save lives and to improve the socio-economic impact in target areas. But Mine Action is more than just clearing, it is also survey, research, resource allocation, tool selection etc. and this study will cover the whole range of aspects.

The Spanish consortium led by INSA Ingeniería y Servicios Aeroespaciales S.A. with EXPAL Explosivos Alaveses S.A. and Hispasat S.A has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA) for the “Space Assets for Demining Assistance” project in the framework of the Integrated Applications Programme (IAP).

Space-based Earth observation technologies, whilst being a fundamental pillar in some fields such as meteorology, are far from being fully exploited in other areas. In the case of demining management activities, the combination of integrated applications based on remote sensing, navigation and Satellite communications might provide a step forward in the performance of the current systems already available.

Some mature imagery applications, notably those related to static information integrated in Geographic Information System (GIS), are widely used in their operations, but there is a gap in the use of all the potentiality arisen from the new satellite input data available as well as the communication technologies in areas where network deployment is still deeply below the desired standards.

The satellite systems could work in a synergetic manner with the ground facilities, reaching a more efficient utilisation of available technology.

Landmine Monitor Report 2009 reported that as of August 2009, more than 70 states were believed to be mine-affected, as well as seven areas not internationally recognized (see Table 1 below).

In the past year Landmine Monitor has removed two states from the list: the Gambia and Tunisia. Although any estimate should be treated with caution, Landmine Monitor believes that less than 3,000km2 of land worldwide was mine contaminated as of August 2009. Increasingly, data gathering efforts are—rightly— seeking to define more accurately the perimeters of Suspected Hazardous Areas (SHAs) and to ensure there is sufficient evidence of contamination for these SHAs to be entered into national mine action databases.

Table 1: Mine-affected states and other areas as of August 2009 (from Land Mine Monitor on Mine Action status, link,

Experience in many mine action programmes indicates that large areas that have been cleared were, in fact, hazard free. In many cases, the targeting of clearance assets could have been improved if appropriate surveys had been conducted. The challenge is to attempt to better define the land that contains explosive hazards so that clearance activities can be limited to those areas. In that way a more efficient use of resources and a faster land release can be achieved.

Figure 1:Demining flow chart (adapted from “A guide to mine action” 2010)

Information obtained through space and airborne remote sensing can contribute substantially to many aspects of mine action and mine clearance planning. Earth Observation satellites have been recording the earth surface in increasing resolutions from 1972 onward. Recently high-resolution images have become commercially available. Declassified high-resolution panoramic camera data from 1960 onward of many areas around the world are now also available (Day et al., 1998 (1)). These image archives provide a wealth of historical information. For topographical, map production and updating conventional aerial photography can be used. These images also provide a high spatial resolution and multi-temporal coverage. All this information can be used to support the mine action effort. In addition, indicators of mine presence can be assessed using satellite data, although often the combination of different types of data (visible, infrared and radar) and techniques is required, in order to improve the detection accuracy and reduce both commission and omission errors.

Among the different types of explosive, INSA’s study focuses on detection and clearance of landmine and Explosive Remnant of War (ERW). Explosive Remnant of War (ERW) refers mainly to ammunition and abandoned artefacts and they are usually located on the surface. They differ from Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) principally because ERW were not shouted; that implies that some action is required to induce the explosion.

At project level, INSA’s concept definition shall take into account the Information Management System for Mine Action (IMSMA) tool already available, and it shall be integrated into the architecture for the services provision. Space assets shall be a key part of the architecture, allowing filling the gaps identified with the already used technologies.

The architecture is based on a distributed configuration, following the approach of IMSMA solution. This concept is based on a network of facilities providing services at different levels of the end user organisation ranging from national centres to field facilities. Remote sensing based information will be made available at the national level, where data fusion and integration with the latest version of IMSMA would take place. This national facility is where decision makers need all the information for prioritization of regions for survey and further release effort. At regional level, regional centres or UNMAS coordinate the activities of demining organizations, which may be NGOs (Non-governmental organizations), military, commercial demining companies, or even own demining action. This intermediate level will be synchronised with the national one for information updates. Finally, filed facilities will be provided with services based on information tailored to their operational needs through either terrestrial or satellite communications depending on availability.

Although this project is a viability study, INSA is very proud to collaborate identifying the methodologies and systems, which will allow saving lives through the integrated application of space technology.

(1) Day, D.A., Logsdon, J.M., Latell, B. (1998). Eye in the sky: the story of the Corona spy satellites. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. ISBN: 1-56098-80-4