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The Polish Science Voice
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From the Publisher
August 1, 2013   
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In this issue of The Polish Science Voice we report on two innovative projects undertaken by Polish researchers and engineers with the financial support of public institutions. One involves a method to detect and disarm land mines and the other aims to develop a positioning system for use indoors—performing a similar function to the Global Positioning System, which is used outdoors. Both projects are highly useful as well as market-oriented—they both aim to develop commercially available products.

In the wake of various armed conflicts, millions of land mines remain buried—and active—in several dozen countries around the world, posing a constant risk to soldiers and civilians alike. Military experts and researchers worldwide are working to develop better and faster ways to detect and disarm these deadly contraptions, which are notorious for killing and crippling people. A team of Polish researchers from the Warsaw University of Technology, led by Robert Głębocki, has developed a hi-tech device equipped with two artificial “noses” to sniff out land mines. The remote-controlled device—controlled by an expert from a safe place away from where the mine is located—also features an ultrasound probe and a special cannon for detonating mines.

Since World War II land mine detection has become more tricky because many mines these days have non-metallic—PVC or ceramic—casings, according to Głębocki. As a result, metal detectors cannot spot them.

The mine disposal method developed by the Warsaw University of Technology researchers led by Głębocki—and financially supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education as well as the National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR)—could help save the lives of many people in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in Africa.

There are different methods for detecting land mines around the world, Głębocki says, but none of these has led to the development of a device that can be manufactured on a large scale. The price of the new system, if production is launched, will depend on the number of units ordered, according to Głębocki. “If we were to build a single unit, the cost would be around zl.300,000-400,000. With 10-20 units, it could be down to around zl.100,000 per unit,” he says.

The other innovative research project we report on in this issue of The Polish Science Voice aims to develop an innovative positioning system for use inside buildings. The project—managed by Łukasz Kulas from the Faculty of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics at the Gdańsk University of Technology in northern Poland—has been supported from public funds. It has been co-financed by Poland’s National Center for Research and Development (NCBiR) as part of its Lider (Leader) program, which is designed to promote the professional development of young researchers.

The indoor positioning system (IPS) is similar to the Global Positioning System, it’s just that the GPS is for locating people, vehicles and objects outdoors, while an indoor positioning system makes it possible to track selected objects in a production facility, an office building or a hospital, says Kulas.

This system facilitates the work of large teams of people and helps track equipment that has gone missing. Hospitals provided with such an indoor positioning system could improve the quality of their services and perform more operations every year, according to Kulas. The system should soon be commercially available.
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