Imagine this, if you will. You are a foot soldier. Your mission is to cross a minefield. A perilous enough task even if you are faced with current minefield technology. But this ain’t any old minefield. It’s an Intelligent Mobile Land Mine (IMLM) system – a self-healing minefield, an intelligent, dynamic obstacle that responds to your breaching attempt by physically reorganising itself.
Sandia National Labs are currently developing such an IMLM system by adding intelligence and mobility to anti-tank (AT) landmines. This will enable the new AT mine system to autonomously detect that a breach has occurred, determine which mines need to move to heal the breach, and deploy the mobility system to make the required moves. Sandia is currently developing the technologies required, including the mobility system, behaviour algorithms, communication systems, and ranging sensors.
Each ‘IMLM unit’ will contain a radio, ranging sensor and control electronics. The radio will provide communication between each IMLM unit. Communication algorithms will establish a network between units after they are deployed. The ranging sensor will provide the distance between each IMLM unit, which will then be used to calculate the relative location of all units in the minefield. An acoustic ranging system is currently being developed for this purpose. The control electronics will contain a microprocessor for algorithm computations and system control.
After the IMLM minefield is initially deployed and locations established, the presence of known neighbours and verification of their known distances will establish that the minefield is distributed properly. Disappearance of one to several IMLM units will indicate that a possible breach has occurred. On board algorithms will analyse the last known location of missing neighbours and the current location of present neighbours to formulate moves to heal the breach. The mobility system will be deployed to make the required moves.
The mobility system will be based on a hopping mechanism that is actuated by a single-cylinder combustion process. Each IMLM unit will carry an on-board fuel tank and spark initiation system. For each required hop, the fuel will be metered into the cylinder and ignited. The combustion drives a piston assembly that connects to a foot at the bottom of the IMLM unit. The foot makes contact with the ground and propels the IMLM unit. The IMLM unit will also contain a righting system to properly orient itself after landing, and a steering system that provides directional control for each hop.
A prototype system of IMLM units is planned for deployment in spring 2001. Don’t plan a war with the US after that date.