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Google Maps Helps Clear Minefields In Kosovo

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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HALO Trust says advanced positioning and navigation technology is making demining efforts less dangerous

HALO Trust, the charity that clears up consequences of military conflicts around the world, has revealed that navigation products developed by Google have helped it map out minefields in Kosovo without putting people at risk.

As the organisation celebrated its 25th birthday, it said Google Maps and Google Earth Pro have simplified the task of landmine clearance, while also making it easier to see the results of this work.

To illustrate how software has changed the way it operates, HALO Trust has published a series of interactive maps and interviews with the residents of Krivenik village in Kosovo, which has been surrounded by minefields for the last fifteen years.

Minesweeper

As the very first humanitarian demining organisation, HALO Trust has been removing weapons from war-torn countries since 1988. Over the course of its existence, it has cleared more than 13 million landmines and items of unexploded ordnance, destroyed over 53 million bullets and immobilised 3,300 heavy weapon systems.

SONY DSCThe charity says that besides the obvious danger to lives of the local residents, landmines also prevent them from expanding farms and repairing homes, roads and schools.

HALO explains that products like Google Maps help it identify and map dangerous areas, validate existing data and show results of its work to donors and governments, in order to illustrate the importance of landmine clearance and obtain more funding.

As an example, the trust has published interactive maps of the Krivenik village, which was mined by the Yugoslavan Army to inhibit the movement of the Kosovo Liberation Army back in 1998.

Following clearance efforts by NATO forces, the village, along with the rest of Kosovo, was declared ‘free of mines’ in 2001. However, between 2006 and 2007 HALO identified 72 minefields and cluster munition strikes still in need of clearance. So far, it has disarmed 27, and will continue working until the very last minefield is gone.

“We work in more than a dozen countries and regions across the globe so we rely on easy-to-use tools which can assist us in mapping minefields without putting our teams at risk.  Our mission at The HALO Trust is to get mines out of the ground for good so that people can return home and live in safety.  Google Maps, and in particular Google Earth Pro, are assisting us in our efforts, making mineclearance safer and more efficient so that we hopefully will not be marking our 50th anniversary,” said Guy Willoughby CEO of the HALO Trust.

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