NGO Series: FSD

CyberPeace Institute
Alexis ALLEY

In the quest for safer communities, one nonprofit has stood at the forefront of Mine Action for many years. FSD (Fondation suisse de déminage) has been relentless in leveraging technology to enhance the efficiency, safety, and impact of their projects. Through their core mission, FSD is actively involved in manual and mechanical demining, battle area clearance, risk education, and mine victim assistance. 

In this blog post, we catch up with Hansjörg Eberle, Director of FSD, to explore how the organization has embraced technology to bring us closer to a world free from the threat of landmines.

Hansjörg Eberle
Director, FSD

Technology plays a pivotal role in FSD’s Mine Action initiatives. Fundamentally, the deminer’s toolbox consists of manual demining – using metal detectors, ground preparation machines for vegetation removal of suspected hazardous areas, and even dogs or similar animal detection systems.

There is however an array of technologies that holds the potential to make Mine Action cheaper, better, or faster. In the realm of new sensor-based technologies, FSD has integrated the trailing of a large loop detector mounted on a remote controlled vehicle. This innovation, initially designed for military applications, is being adapted for humanitarian demining in Ukraine. The agricultural fields in Ukraine serve as a testing ground, demonstrating its potential to expedite technical surveys and clearance operations.

In addition, FSD has started transferring existing technology used in precision farming such as GPS tracking of machines to monitor the movements of demining machines and improve their performance when clearing suspected hazardous areas. While off-the-shelf software isn’t readily available for non-technical surveys and clearance, FSD has teamed up with a Ukrainian software and land management company to build a geographic information system that allows the streamlining of non-technical surveys from planning missions to reporting to national authorities and other stakeholders.

Collaborative Research & Development 

Collaboration fuels FSD’s research and development endeavors, exemplified by their partnership with the Urs Endress Foundation’s FindMine project. This collaboration yields drone-based ground-penetrating radar and metal detectors, offering the potential to expedite surveys of suspected hazardous areas and generate more comprehensive survey reports.

Looking forward, FSD is embarking on a research project in collaboration with EPFL in Lausanne focusing on ground-penetrating radar for war-affected forests in the Kharkiv province of Ukraine. FSD maintains close ties with academic institutions and commercial enterprises to explore novel tech solutions such as artificial intelligence-assisted video analysis, sensor-equipped drone swarms, and drones equipped with hyperspectral sensors.

Over time, FSD has embraced satellite technology and remote sensing to enable its mission. By leveraging satellite imagery, they can identify potential minefields and assess risks in remote and challenging terrains. A data-driven approach empowers FSD’s strategizing efforts to improve overall safety and focus on areas in high demand for intervention.

In this technologically advancing age, the importance of cybersecurity for humanitarian organizations cannot be overstated. FSD operates in countries affected by conflicts and instability, making it particularly vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. A cyberattack on FSD could not only pose a threat to the safety of their beneficiaries but also inflict severe financial losses that may impact their ability to operate and even jeopardize the very survival of the organization.

To address these concerns, FSD underwent an audit by the CyberPeace Institute, which revealed vulnerabilities in its security measures. Subsequently, with the invaluable support of the Institute, FSD embarked on a comprehensive cybersecurity journey, systematically revising its protocols, bolstering its defenses, and providing essential cybersecurity training to the staff. Through these measures, FSD has now established a robust and secure system that is better equipped to protect its critical operations and the sensitive data managed by the organization.

FSD’s relentless pursuit of innovative technologies, coupled with a strong commitment to cybersecurity, has redefined the landscape of Mine Action. By adopting mapping software, detection tools, satellite technology, and drone solutions, FSD has elevated the overall security of their staff deployed on the ground. At the same time, working with the CyberPeace Institute and actively participating in the CyberPeace Builders program has equipped all their staff, both in the field and at HQ, with the cybersecurity knowledge and skills to be better protected in digital space. As they continue to advance the FindMine Project, FSD stands as a testament to the transformative power of technology in humanitarian efforts. FSD brings hope for a safer future, mitigating the scourge of landmines and unexploded ordnance so communities can thrive without fear.

© Copyright 2023: The concepts and information contained in this document are the property of the CyberPeace Institute, an independent non-governmental organization headquartered in Geneva, unless indicated otherwise from time to time throughout the document. This document may be reproduced, in whole or in part, provided that the CyberPeace Institute is referenced as author and copyright holder.


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