LiDAR Used to Track Landmine-Hunting Honey Bees

  1. Honey bees can be trained to locate land mines with great accuracy.
  2. LiDAR is then used to track the swarm to the land mine location.
  3. The site must be relatively level in order to maintain line of sight.

(Try to say the title fast 3x.) In a recent Insects/Spiders publication Jennifer Copley describes how honey bees are being used to locate land mines. Each year 20,000 people are severely injured or killed by landmines, 30% -40% are children. Traditional land mine detection techniques, such as the use of sniffer dogs are dangerous and expensive.

Bees have an acute sense of smell, which enables them to find food. Taking advantage of this trait, a group of scientists, led by Jerry Bromenshenk and Joseph Shaw from the Mine Action Information Center, have conditioned bees to interpret the scent of chemicals used in explosives as food. The association is established by adding traces of explosive by-products to bee feed.

Once trained they must be tracked – that’s where LiDAR comes in. So long as the land being checked is relatively level, and it is not raining – bees don’t work in the rain, LiDAR has been used to successively track the bees. Conditioned bees have shown a 97% or better accuracy in locating mines. There are plans to use them for detecting bombs, drugs and even decaying bodies.

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