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ERW Clearance, REST, remote explosive scent tracing, GICHD
Remote Explosive Scent Tracing (REST) is essentially a survey methodology based on using dogs and rats to remotely detect landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Systems similar to REST have been used in technical survey and mine clearance operations for 20 years, and have been subject to a study conducted by the Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining (GICHD) since 2000.
At that time, REST was considered one of the most promising avenues for speeding up demining operations and making them more cost-efficient, very much in the spirit of the land release concept. The GICHD got involved in the REST project with the aim of developing a fully operational system, based on a well organised research process. It was hoped sufficient scientific evidence would enable operators to use it with a high level of reliability.
The use of animal detectors has increased rapidly, but the research to explore and understand the technology has not necessarily kept pace with this expansion, to the point where one can safely say that all variables between animals and their detection targets are fully understood. The REST project has contributed greatly to an increase in this understanding. Although the overall objective has not been reached, the increased knowledge gathered throughout the project has proved valuable in operations with dogs and rats. It has also had tremendous application for research findings outside of mine action.
The project brought together people from very different backgrounds, such as chemists, ethologists, psychologists and dog-training specialists. They worked side by side towards the same objective, ie the development of an operational REST concept.
This publication provides a summary of historical perspectives and empirical results for various research tracts explored through REST. This could not have been achieved without the support of cooperating partners, individuals, institutions and other supporters who assisted the GICHD and its contractors in our endeavours to better understand animal detection systems.