Countries around the world are faced with the problem of mine clearance and explosive detection. According to landminefree.org, there may be as many as 110 million landmines in the ground, with many more yet to be laid or destroyed. But a Madison-based tech startup wants to change that.
Clandestine Materials Detection is an offshoot of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Co-founder and CEO Dennis Hall said the company plans to use drones to detect gamma rays produced by neutrons in explosives.
“The neutron generator shoots neutrons about a meter into the ground, which will detect the actual explosive and what type of explosive it is,” he said. “Then within a millisecond, it sends gamma rays to the sensor, and it’s actually an explosive. It’s relayed to the Humvee or whatever vehicle receives it. Then it’s tagged, and the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) people know exactly They know exactly what type of explosive it is, so they know how to respond to it.”
Hall formed the company with UW-Madison professors Gerald Kulcinski and John Santarius. The company calls its detection method the Red Rover System. This is to keep people safe and to speed up the search process, Hall said, as an alternative to traditional detection methods because “they detect metal casings on explosives.” He added that some mines are made of plastic.
“Our technology actually detects the explosive inside the mine, so it doesn’t care what casing it is.”
D.C. officials and members of the Secret Service, Navy, Marine Corps and others call CMD’s technology a game-changer, Hall said.
“There’s a lot of interest in it now because we can put it at the front of the convoy. If the President of the United States is walking down the parade route, we can scan that parade route in a matter of minutes instead of the bomb squad telling me they need A few hours to go the route of the caravan.”
Within line of sight, the Red Rover drone can operate from about 1,000 yards away. Hall said he also spoke with interested officials in Iraq, Somalia and Ukraine.
“I’ve been told that Ukraine has 50 to 60,000 rounds of unexploded ordnance a day. Those who attended EOD in November said that was a conservative figure, with more than a third of Ukraine’s territory covered with landmines and unexploded ordnance ordnance.”
In 2018, before the latest Russian incursion, more than 40 percent of civilian deaths in eastern Ukraine were caused by landmines and explosives, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Hall said hidden explosives threatened and hindered civilians’ daily lives.
“Farmers who are trying to go out and work their wheat fields are exposed to all these things, not just landmines, but also unexploded ordnance. They tell me it takes three or four years to do that. These are some of the things we can do by using multiple unmanned Machine systems can easily speed up the process.”
CMD has a small operating budget and the company raised $1.3 million in 2022, Hall said. Employees are working hard on the project, he said. The startup hopes to raise $3-5 million in its second round of funding and have a prototype ready this spring or summer.