Every day, American soldiers use machines to find and neutralize mines in war-torn areas. Many of those devices make the transition from good idea to usable tool at a giant, indoor sandbox in Fort Belvoir, Va.
From the outside, the Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensor Directorate's mine lane facility looks like a long utility shed with a small, attached greenhouse. On the inside, 60-foot-long sandboxes hold six different colors of dirt. Near the door, a table holds an intimidating array of simulated mines.
Each of the six different types of soil can be soaked and exposed to the sun, kept dark and dry — or arranged at any configuration in between.
Once the area has prepared the sand with any light, water, debris, or rocks — and, of course, simulated mines — an overhead trolley carts experimental mine-detecting equipment over the surface at a walking pace.
Whether that rig hauls radar, lasers or advanced metal detectors, this facility provides a first testing ground for concepts that will go on to further development and eventually reach the field, and in significant numbers.
Thousands of tools developed at this facility have been shipped to Iraq, Afghanistan and other conflict zones where they help protect American soldiers.
[Music: "Sandbox" by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass from Warm]
Photos: Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensor Directorate