Mine Kafon is a “low-cost wind-powered mine detonator with the appearance of a giant, spiky-armed tumbleweed.” Designed by Massoud Hassani, it is a large sphere made up of plastic discs and bamboo rods which will (in theory) be naturally blown over minefields by the wind, detonating any mines it crosses over. A GPS receiver located in the centre maps the journey of each device and sends it to a database, allowing ‘safe routes’ to be calculated for people who need to traverse these landscapes.
I first read about Mine Kafon at least a year ago in Icon magazine. Since then it has been featured in design & technology blogs all over the internet and has raised £174,000 on Kickstarter. I’ve always thought it looked like a fantastic solution, but in preparation for my Pecha Kucha on ‘parachute design’ (design from afar, for developing countries), I decided to research its effectiveness.
And sure enough, there is some criticism. Even while the device is winning awards, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) units are saying that because it is completely unsystematic, it is unsuitable for mine clearance. Mark Vlemmings also makes some compelling points:
- It relies entirely on wind, which isn’t always there
- Since the direction is uncontrollable, whats to stop it getting stuck in a ditch or corner?
- All it can prove is the presence of a mine in a certain area: GPS is not accurate enough to claim that the path before that is safe, because mines are so small that if you ventured centimeters from the device’s exact path you could encounter another mine.
- It actually provides people with a false sense of security, creating more danger
In response to this Walter Amerika, a lecturer at Hassani’s university, reminds us that this is still just a final year project. One which admittedly does need to be developed, but shows great innovation, inspiration and potential.