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Entrepreneurs are always trying to avoid landmines. But here’s a startup that’s actively seeking them out — literally.

Red Lotus Technologies, a Seattle and San Francisco upstart led by operations manager Robin Hibbs Rosenberg and engineer Lahiru Jayatilaka, has developed a new system to better pinpoint landmines in former war-torn nations like Cambodia and Angola.

The landmine problem was not solved by Princess Diana, with estimates that it could take at least another century to clear all of the old detonators strewn across the globe.

Red Lotus’ promise is more blunt than you see with the standard startup: “We want to save lives, limbs and land.”

“It’s been interesting trying to navigate a startup space that caters to both humanitarian and defense customers,” said Hibbs Rosenberg, who is based out of Seattle and has worked in non-profits across the globe.

The technology behind the system is known as PETALS — short for Pattern Enhancement Tool for Assisting Landmine Sensing. Jayatilaka, who hails from Sri Lanka, developed the system while an undergrad at Harvard University, winning the Hooper Prize for his work.

Apparently, existing landmine detectors don’t work very well, pinpointing schrapnel and soda pop cans in addition to the actual bombs. For every 1,000 mines that are cleared in Cambodia, the current mine detectors sound an alarm 100,000 times, says Bill Morse of the Landmine Relief Fund in this Indiegogo campaign for the startup.

Here’s more of description of the PETALS system:

PETALS Live enables deminers to trace out and see the shape of a buried object’s metallic field. Based on the shape of these traces, operators can tell the difference between something that’s harmful, like a landmine, from something that’s harmless, like a bullet shell.

Here’s Jayatilaka explaining the technology in the Indiegogo effort.


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