American children of the nineties are likely to remember an addictive video game that required the lone player to locate hidden “mines” without detonating them. Elsewhere in the real world, millions of children grew up in actual war zones, where hidden landmines posed a daily threat even years after the height of the violent conflicts. Two of those children—brothers Massoud and Mahmud Hassani—turned what they learned during their childhood in Kabul, Afghanistan into a life-saving drone that can find and detonate stray land mines while people watch from a safe distance. With some 110 million land mines scattered across the globe, an effective and affordable means of disposing of them could save tens of thousands of lives a year.

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The minesweeping device the Hassani brothers invented could be immensely helpful in their home country of Afghanistan and other places where decades of military conflicts have left behind countless land mines, which are popular in combat because they are cheap to build and use. Now living in the Netherlands, the brothers put their ingenuity to work, first creating a minesweeping robot based on a ­wind-powered tumbleweed toy they built during childhood. The Mine Kafon (kafon means “explode” in Dari) could roll through a minefield and detonate mines. The device received global attention, and the brothers knew they had to make it even better.

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For two years, they developed a flying mine-hunting drone that performs a similar task to the ground-based device, but with higher efficiency. The Mine Kafon Drones can clear land mines 20 times faster than existing devices, according to the Hassanis, on a much smaller budget. While removing mines by hand is a dangerous and expensive process (costing as much as $1,000 per mine, depending on the type), the flying minesweeper drone costs about $1,100 and can map and clear an entire minefield. The brothers estimate thousands of their drones working around the globe could clear all the existing mines within 10 years.

Via Popular Science

Images via Massoud and Mahmud Hassani