Tumbleweed toy seeks and destroys land mines

MINE KAFON, INDEX: AWARD 2013 FINALIST.

There are presently in excess of 110 million deadly mines hidden underground, silently and surreptitiously waiting to kill thousands of lives ever year. Afghan designer Massoud Hassani used inspiration from his favourite childhood toy in order to design the Mine Kafon, a unique minefield sweeper that destroys all mines in its path. The autonomous, wind-powered design is equipped with GPS sensor to enable it to track its path and declare it safe. Saving lives and limbs with every gust.

The United Nations estimates that a staggering 110 million landmines have been laid out across more than 70 countires since the 1960s. These landmines result in 15,000 to 20,000 deaths every year. The professional removal of landmines is not only very costly – around $1,200 per mine – but also extremely dangerous, and it can take several days. Do the maths. The clean-up effort is simply too slow, too ineffective, too dangerous.

In Afghanistan alone, 30 million landmines are lurking below the ground. With 26 million inhabitants, it is fair to say that landmines are one of the biggest threats to Afghanis, yet the horrors of mines get very little coverage.

Massoud Hassani, an Afghan designer living in The Netherlands, has taken on this monumental challenge. Hassani’s childhood in Afghanistan impressed upon him a profound fear of landmines – with much of the land being off-limits for play – but also provided him with inspiration for a solution. As a child he built wind-powered toys that would roam the fields. What if a wind-powered ‘toy’ could roam the landmine infested fields and detonate the mines? And just like that the idea was born.

Similar to a supersized dandelion in shape, Mine Kafon is built to be wind-powered, and heavy enough to trigger mines as it rolls across the ground. It is made from dozens of bamboo legs radiating from the centre, with round plastic ‘feet’ that apply pressure to the ground. At the centre of the design is a GPS unit that will track the path cleared by the Mine Kafon. While some of its bamboo legs are destroyed in the explosions, Hassani claims that it can withstand up to four explosions before it loses it’s spherical shape and thus the ability to roll.

This life-saving design is not only functional, it is remarkably beautiful. So much so, it is currently exhibited in the Applied Design exhibition at MoMA in New York. In many ways, Mine Kafon epitomises the first and foremost role of the designer – to improve life.

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