Can Satellite/Recon Imagery Detect Land Mines?

Using sophisticated IR technology, satellites have apparently detected many of the caves in Afghanistran that OB Laden has been using for covert ops.

My question is whether land mines can be so detected to protect US troops? (Or at least mine fields.) Wouldn’t even plastic mines give off some detectable IR signature–or is the required resolution technically unfeasible?

I don’t think IR would work, but there are ground-penetrating radars that might do the job. You’d have to be in an airplane to get sufficient resolution, it probably would not work from a satellite.

An “IR signature” is merely being at a different temperature than surrounding area. A buried mine would only be detectable if it made the ground above it cooler or hotter than the surrounding ground. I don’t think that’s likely.

Chas: Radar wouldn’t work very well because many modern mines use little or no metal. There’s also the problem of false signals…there’s a surprising amount of metal in the ground, but there’s also the problem of an enemy just sowing a bunch of metal bits with only a few mines here and there. Gotta check and clear every one, even though most are harmless.

This week’s Bulletin had very detailed map showing the location and concentration of landmines throughout Afghanistan - I can’t find my hard copy ATM, so I’ll see if I can find the map online and establish the source of the figures (it may well be estimates based on what the US provided to the Taliban during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, as many other estimates of the Taliban’s strength are - I think not, however, as two small areas were shown on the map as hapving no landmines whatsoever).

My apologies, the map is on page 47 of the October 1, 2001 issue of TIME, not the Bulletin. The source is given as the United Nations Mine Action Program - I’ll see if I can find out any more about how these figures are determined.

Regarding finding mines with satellites, I think not. Just about 3 weeks ago I saw a show on the History channel about modern minehunters, and they still block off fields and gently probe for mines using little metal sticks. They had footage of all these guys poking several thousand holes in the ground, all very carefully, all very tense. Even with all this caution, several mine clearers die every year. :frowning:

The fact that it is this difficult to find mines from 3 inches away, leads me to believe that it would be impossible to do so from miles up, no matter how good a camera you have.