The US Army is working on a new mine detector that allows soldiers to see as well as analyze the size of an explosive hidden underground.

The new device uses real-time spatial location tracking and a range of sensors to produce an image of the buried object, be it an active IED or some unexploded artillery shell.

As seen in the video, the tech creates a colored map on a tablet as and when the surface is scanned by the device. The area highlighted in orange roughly represents the scale or the metallic object or a potential risk-zone, while other colors represent the safer areas.

"You can immediately see the shape of the object and roughly its size," Christopher Marshall, a scientist in the Countermine Division of the Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate, said in a statement. "By providing this information to the Soldier, it makes it easier to operate and it means a faster response."

Roadside operations in war zones are often plagued by hidden mines and bombs. The army uses conventional metal detectors to find potential threats, but those scanners do not produce visual output. Instead, they give out audio alerts as and when the detector closes in on a hidden explosive.

US Army Mine Detector Sgt. 1st Class Jared Huffstickler demonstrates how a soldier would use real-time spatial location tracking at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Photo: Sean Kimmons/US Army

However, real-time visual imagery isn’t the only advantage here. The new detector also enables a soldier to mark out potential threats on the map and share that information with fellow comrades or others on the ground. Current minesweepers don’t have any such feature and soldiers have to mark risk-zones manually with sticks or other markers.

In addition, the tech even monitors how a soldier is operating the mine detector. It tracks the swing-rate, which, if falls due to fatigue or any other reason, could mean the soldier is on the brink of making a critical detection mistake.

"If the Soldier is starting to swing erratically, that could be an early warning sign," Marshall added. "Then someone could come up to take the place of the Soldier." Plus, this could also be leveraged as a trainer tool to ensure soldiers use the mine detector at the specified speed and distances on the battlefield.

The mine detector is still in the works, but the service plans to improve it with advanced sensing technology which could even differentiate between harmful and harmless metal objects buried underground. Once ready, the whole thing could be integrated with mine detection robots for even faster and safer mission operation.