The Department of Defense is responsible for thousands of sites contaminated with military munitions covering millions of acres. With current practice, subsurface munitions are detected with simple metal detectors and excavated. These sensors detect more nonhazardous metal objects than munitions and have no ability to identify the source of a signal. On a typical site, 95 to more than 99 percent of the objects excavated are not munitions, and most of the costs are currently spent on excavating items that pose no threat.

Technologies developed under SERDP and currently being demonstrated under ESTCP promise to transform munitions response by providing a capability to distinguish the buried munitions from the vast amounts of metallic clutter that current technology also detects. As these technologies have matured, one of the most vexing and persistent challenges has been deciding how to proceed in cases in which underground objects are adjacent to or on top of each other. There has been no way to determine if one, or several, of these overlapping objects were UXO or harmless pieces of metal. Without that knowledge, site managers risked either leaving potentially dangerous UXO in place or digging up all objects in densely cluttered areas, an extremely expensive, time-consuming, and impractical approach that severely limits the applicability of classification.

In recent years, a new generation of highly sophisticated sensors has been developed with SERDP and ESTCP support, including MetalMapper and TEMTADS, which provide more and richer data about objects in the subsurface. Dr. Dean Keiswetter and his team at SAIC developed a software tool that enables the data from these new sensors to be analyzed to determine the presence of multiple objects and whether they are UXO or clutter, essentially producing a three-dimensional representation of the objects buried under the ground.

In practical terms, Dr. Keiswetter and his team have exploited the new generation of sensors to make it possible to classify overlapping pieces of metal underground with enough specificity and confidence to determine which of the objects are UXO and which are harmless scrap. This new software tool is already being used in live site demonstrations and will be available shortly for production use. This technology, in combination with other advances, will allow for a multibillion dollar reduction in the costs of UXO remediation.

For this significant work, Dr. Keiswetter and his team received a 2012 SERDP Project of the Year award. Project Overview 

Project Team
  • Dean Keiswetter (SAIC)
  • Jonathan Miller (SAIC)
  • Tom Furuya (SAIC)