Seventy-eight countries are contaminated by land mines, which kill or maim 15,000–20,000 people every year. According to the International Red Cross, over 2,000 people a month are injured or killed by landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO).
UXO does not only originate from wars – areas such as military training grounds can also hold significant quantities of unexploded ordnance. Sites contaminated with UXO prevent civilian land use for agriculture or development.
In the United States over 15 million acres may be contaminated by UXO. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates UXO at 16,000 domestic inactive military ranges. Remediation cost estimates at these suspect sites exceeds $15 billion.
Private sector companies perform the remediation work through contracts from the US government. The US currently spends $200 million annually on UXO remediation. The work is labor-intensive using current methods, which relies primarily on metal detectors to map UXO locations.
Other methods of mapping UXO include digital geophysics detection with ATVs or helicopters. The ATVs are limited in their capabilities, particularly in the littorals or overgrown environments typical of the sites. Helicopters are not cost-effective for the task and the very low altitude required by the sensors has been blamed for several accidents.