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Proceedings Paper

Detection and dispersal of explosives by ants
Author(s): John E. McFee; Steve Achal; Anthony A. Faust; Eldon Puckrin; Andrew House; Damon Reynolds; William McDougall; Adam Asquini
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Paper Abstract

The ability of animals to detect explosives is well documented. Mammalian systems, insects and even single celled organisms have all been studied and in a few cases employed to detect explosives. This paper will describe the potential ability of ants to detect, disperse and possibly neutralize bulk explosives. In spring 2008 a team of DRDC and Itres scientists conducted experiments on detecting surface-laid and buried landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and their components. Measurements were made using state-of-the-art short wave and thermal infrared hyperspectral imagers mounted on a personnel lift. During one of the early morning measurement sessions, a wispy, long linear trail was seen to emanate several meters from piles of explosives that were situated on the ground. Upon close visual inspection, it was observed that ants had found the piles of explosives and were carrying it to their ant hill, a distance of almost 20 meters from the piles. Initial analysis of the hyperspectral images clearly revealed the trail to the ant hill of explosives, despite being present in quantities not visible to the unaided eye. This paper details these observations and discusses them in the context of landmine and IED detection and neutralization. Possible reasons for such behaviour are presented. A number of questions regarding the behaviour, many pertinent to the use of ants in a counter-landmine/IED role, are presented and possible methods of answering them are discussed. Anecdotal evidence from deminers of detection and destruction of explosives by ants are presented.

Paper Details

Date Published: 4 May 2009
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 7303, Detection and Sensing of Mines, Explosive Objects, and Obscured Targets XIV, 730302 (4 May 2009); doi: 10.1117/12.820232
Show Author Affiliations
John E. McFee, Defence Research and Development Canada (Canada)
Steve Achal, ITRES Research Ltd. (Canada)
Anthony A. Faust, Defence Research and Development Canada (Canada)
Eldon Puckrin, Defence Research and Development Canada (Canada)
Andrew House, ITRES Research Ltd. (Canada)
Damon Reynolds, ITRES Research Ltd. (Canada)
William McDougall, Defence Research and Development Canada (Canada)
Adam Asquini, Defence Research and Development Canada (Canada)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7303:
Detection and Sensing of Mines, Explosive Objects, and Obscured Targets XIV
Russell S. Harmon; J. Thomas Broach; John H. Holloway, Editor(s)

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