The total area that is affected by unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the Continental United States (CONUS) is estimated at over 10 million acres. Methods currently utilized to remove UXO from test ranges and Formerly Used Defense Sites (FUDS) expose explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) or UXO technicians to explosive risks. Typically, UXO technicians use manual methods to clear an area that includes manual excavation and hand carrying during UXO removal operations. These operations require the technicians to be in close proximity to or have direct physical contact with the UXO and can be very time consuming.

The objective of this demonstration was to gather data and validate the effectiveness of using an automated excavator fitted with an electromagnet in removing both surface and buried UXO from military ranges using commercially available equipment.

Technology Description

The Magnetic UXO Recovery System (MURS) seeks to extract UXO from active and formerly used ranges through the use of a powerful electromagnet powered by a 20 kilowatt (kW) onboard diesel generator mounted on a remotely-controlled Caterpillar excavator.

The MURS prototype is comprised of a system of off-the-shelf technologies suitable for a variety of recovery activities. The system is easily expandable and has the capability to loosen buried ferro-metallic objects through a hydraulic claw incorporated into the Automated Ordnance Excavator (AOE) boom, in concert with the magnet.

Demonstration Results

The first step was to establish the ability to integrate an AOE with a 57-inch Walker Magnetics Scrapmaster┬« D series magnet. With that success and incorporating results from a shakedown (preliminary test) performed at Tyndall AFB, a live site test was performed to thoroughly evaluate the MURS-equipped AOE. In this next step, the system was tested for UXO lifting capabilities from soil surface and limited subsurface scenarios. The effectiveness of the MURS was compared with that of standard UXO clearance operations. 

The MURS proved successful with all of the qualitative performance criteria and several of the quantitative criteria which were evaluated during the shakedown and live testing. The excavation cost using MURS compared favorably to conventional manual excavation.

Implementation Issues

Reducing the risks and costs associated with UXO remediation will promote more effective transfers of FUDS and Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) designated installations to public use. MURS may also reduce maintenance costs at active ranges by eliminating many manual operations associated with UXO remediation.