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About the project 'Biological Method (Bees) for Explosive Detection'

About the project 'Biological Method (Bees) for Explosive Detection'

Mines are still present in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and many countries through the world. Humanitarian demining is expensive, time consuming and presents high risks and threats. Besides well-developed techniques and procedures, use of biological methods is recommended. Existing bio-systems, including bee colonies, can be trained and used efficiently as standalone detection tools.

The goal of the project „Biological Methods (Bees) for Explosive Detection“ is to develop innovative methods and technologies for landmine detection through the advancement and integration of current state of the art techniques – honeybees in combination with explosive vapour sensors and advanced imaging techniques. This project aims to develop a innovative approach, using three different techniques: training honeybees for explosive detection, polymer films as an explosive sensor, and honeybees imaging over the landmines will be integrated to provide a flexible, sensitive, and robust technology.

Honeybees are known for their ability to “sniff” a variety of compounds from drugs to pesticides to CBRN materials; explosives have also been shown to be detectable by honeybees. Two main methods will be used with the trained honeybee colonies: the passive and the active method. In the passive method, bees are allowed to fly freely around a particular area, and when they return to the hive, the hive environment can be sampled for any explosive materials picked up by the bees. The second, active method, mode involves the trained bees that fly towards a specific odour in a contaminated area. This is achieved by exposing the bees to, for instance, TNT when given syrup. The bees associate the smell of TNT with sugar syrup, and so when released into the field they hover above a landmine. In this project we will use high-definition cameras alongside thermal cameras. By using three drones simultaneously equipped with high-definition cameras, the area can be overlaid for higher reliability. The methods may be applied to the suspected area reduction and to confirm completion of the demining process in internal and external quality control.

While these new tools will be tested in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, they are low-cost technologies appropriate for use in many countries around the world.  The major objective the project is to work with end-users and experts to ensure a high-impact delivery of the project’s results.

Duration of the project is three years (started on 03rd November 2017) and it is financed by the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme.

Overall structure

The project is organized into seven work packages (WP).

List of work packages (WPs)

WP No. WP Title Lead Participant Other Participants
1 Management HCR-CTRO USTAN, UNIZG, UNIBL
2 Honeybees training & management HCR-CTRO HCR-CTRO
3 Video acquisition system development UNIZG UNIBL, USTAN, HCR-CTRO
4 Bees distribution analysis UNIBL UNIZG, USTAN, HCR-CTRO
5 Chemical sensors for explosive detection USTAN HCR-CTRO, UNIZG
6 System integration HCR-CTRO USTAN, UNIZG, UNIBL
7 Dissemination and communication HCR-CTRO USTAN, UNIZG, UNIBL


Organizational chart displaying interdependencies between the WPs