Roadside bombs, or Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), are easy to make and hide, and very deadly. They are, therefore, a favorite of insurgents and terrorists all over the world. Roadside bombs are extremely difficult for soldiers to identify, as they are manufactured in different shapes and sizes, and they are often placed roadside and underground.
Now Dutch researchers have developed a special smart camera system that, when mounted on military vehicle help soldiers to identify these bombs hidden along a road. The technology is developed by a team led by an electrical engineer Dennis van de Wouw of Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).
The system consists of a GPS receiver to detect the position and two cameras that pick up 3D images of the road while driving to detect hidden explosive devices in real-time.
The real-time early-warning system automatically compares the recorded images of the present road and the pre-recorded images of the road. If the image processing system detects changes that indicate a bomb being buried or disguised, it alerts the soldiers in the vehicle. It also reports when it finds objects that cannot be identified, such as fire extinguishers that may contain explosives.
According to graduate student Dennis van de Wouw, placing a bomb changes the environment. The grass is trampled down, or a bare spot remains where vegetation was previously found. The biggest challenge, according to the expert, was the development of real-time image comparison software. The images on the first and subsequent trips may have been taken from slightly different locations, one from the side of the road and the other from the center of the road. Different weather conditions and lighting conditions also make the comparison more difficult.
The Dutch Ministry of Defense tested the vehicle with the smart camera system on a military site. It turned out that it reliably reported all suspicious objects. This works right up until dawn.
“The threat warning has to come in time so that the military vehicle can stop at a safe distance from the roadside bomb. This puts a great strain on the time-management for parallel processing. So far all the results look very promising”, says Silvester de Bruin, innovation advisor at the Ministry.