Over 50 million land mines remain unaccounted for in countries such as Angola, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mozambique. People still regularly lose their limbs or even their lives to these hidden killers. Disarming even one mine is estimated to cost around $1,200, and considering that Angola alone has over 20 million of them, the total required to rid the country of this terrible plight could be over $24 billion.
Massoud Hassani, an Afghan designer and former refugee, has built his own low-cost detonation device. Weighing in at 70 kilograms (150 lb), it’s heavy enough to trigger a mine but light enough to be propelled by the wind alone. It looks like a dandelion and moves like a tumbleweed. Made out of bamboo and biodegradable plastic, this device can detonate three or four charges before it is completely destroyed. The cost of producing one Mine Kafon is just $40.
The Mine Kafon also has a built-in GPS tracking system that can detect the movements of each individual device and shows where a detonation has taken place. This helps people map out which areas are mine-free and which aren’t.
Nevertheless, the Mine Kafon is still in early stages of development and has drawbacks. It is possible for one such device to not trigger every mine it rolls over, especially if it has already detonated a few times. Another hiccup involves the terrain. No matter how hard the wind is blowing, chances are that it will not be able to push the Mine Kafon up a steep hill, out of a ditch, or through a heavily wooded area.
Hassani is aware of these issues and says that future generations of the device will be equipped with electric motors for increased mobility and metal detectors to map out every metal object, in case of a failed detonation. Even if this is not the perfect device, it’s a step in the right direction.