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The Mine Dragon
Jamais Cascio, 29 Mar 05

dragon.jpgThe Mine Wolf is a good piece of landmine-removal technology, to be sure -- fast, relatively inexpensive (at least for de-mining equipment), and able to be refitted for agricultural work after landmines have been removed. But it has one problem: it removes mines by breaking them up or by detonating them. Exploding landmines, even to remove them, can be dangerous for people nearby, and can spray toxic chemicals around the landscape.

Enter the Dragon.

Designed by de-mining specialists Disarmco and explosives experts at Cranfield University in the UK, Dragon is a pyrotechnic torch able to destroy landmines by burning them out instead of detonating them. They've also developed a portable production system able to make Dragons in the field using local materials.

The tubular shaped pyrotechnic device directs a very hot flame at the munitions to achieve the deflagration effect. It can be placed either on the ground next to the munitions or directed at the landmine mounted on a simple wire frame.

The torches are made in situ in the portable unit and do not require any specialist knowledge or expensive training in order to be used safely by local communities employed in decontamination efforts.

Professor Ian Wallace, Head of the Department of Environmental and Ordnance Systems at Cranfield University, explained: "Working with the Disarmco team, we've created a new formulation based on low-cost materials which are readily available around the world. Local communities – with little training – can use the portable production unit to manufacture the thousands of 'Dragons' required to deal with landmines and UXOs [unexploded ordnance]."

Christopher Le Hardy, Director of Disarmco, added: "Burning is a more effective and scientifically safer way to dispose of certain types of landmines and UXOs compared with high explosives that are inherently more dangerous."

The BBC notes that Dragon prototypes were tested in Lebanon in 2004, and will be used in Cambodia in May of this year. Although the Dragon does not have the same kind of broad utility that the Mine Wolf has, it makes up for it in low cost, easy use, and (as noted) greater safety for both people and the environment.

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