Cambodia is a country marked by recent conflict. Decades of war in the late 20th century left indelible scars on the land and its people, and the legacy of those conflicts persists in the form of a landscape strewn with land mines. Mine-related casualties number in the dozens every year, and if land is not cleared of mines, people cannot build on it or farm it, which hinders socioeconomic growth.
Since 1992, demining activities have found and destroyed more than 500,000 mines and more than 2 million pieces of unexploded ordnance, freeing up more than 1,000 square kilometers of land for use. But as many as 4–6 million land mines and other pieces of unexploded ordnance might still be buried across the country, according to the Cambodian Mine Action Centre.
Teams of humans, machines, dogs, and even mine-sniffing rats can clear upward of 4,000 mines per month, but Cambodia’s dense wilderness slows the work. To counteract the thick vegetation, U.S.-based researchers and engineers are working with teams in Cambodia to develop a mine-detecting robot that can more easily navigate the brush and aid local demining efforts.