An Autonomous UXO Identification Platform

Organisation: University Of California Davis

Partners: Virginia Diodes Inc; Geneva International Center for Humanitarian Demining

Type of grant: Core – invention

Status: Ongoing

  • Researchers from the UC Davis DART lab setting up a drone test flight. L-R: Hengjiu Kang, Professor Xiaoguang Liu, James Do, Monica Sedarous, Yaming Zhang. @credit Katherine Lin, UC Davis College of Engineering Marketing and Communications

  • UXO scanner

  • Image of a buried shape

  • Hex Copter drone with a 1kg payload.

  • 3D holographic image of two targets placed at different ranges

Researchers at the University of California Davis, Virginia Diodes Inc. and the GICHD are developing An Autonomous UXO Identification Platform to improve the safety, quality and productivity of the UXO/ mine detection process for humanitarian demining.


UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) contamination has affected more than 70 countries since the 1960s. UXOs and mines claim an estimated 15000-25000 casualties every year where 80% of the victims are civilians. UXO detection is a costly, labour intensive and dangerous process; The cost of removal is estimated at US$300-US$1000 per UXO/ mine. Current methods of identification involve manually scanning areas of land with handheld metal detectors or by towing a rig of equipment. These methods often generate false positive data and waste valuable time and resources. We seek to improve the safety, productivity and quality of the UXO detection process


An Autonomous UXO Identification Platform is a quad-copter drone equipped with a high resolution, high sensitivity millimeter wave imaging radar programmed to scan an area for UXOs. Millimeter wave imaging is currently used in airports in the USA for detecting security threats hidden under clothing. We propose to mount this imaging technology on a drone to scan the ground for buried UXOs. Current methods of detection are unable to discern buried scrap metal from a UXO. A drone equipped with millimeter wave imaging technology will improve the quality, productivity and safety of UXO detection.


At the end of the recognition phase grant, we will develop a quad-copter drone with 1.5kg payload and 10W DC power supply. These specifications will be required to integrate the millimeter wave radar with the quad-copter drone in later grant phases. We will then program the drone to hover in a user-defined raster scanning pattern. Additionally, we will conduct soil penetration experiments using a high power millimeter wave radar to characterize the capability of millimeter wave imaging in various soil types and conditions.

Elrha is a registered charity in England and Wales (1177110).

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