An I-Corps alumni startup is deploying its landmine-detecting AI technology for humanitarian demining in Ukraine.
Safe Pro AI, co-founded by Binghamton University alumni Jasper Baur and Gabriel Steinberg, is a Safe Pro Group company leveraging AI and machine learning to detect, label, and map mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO).
Mines have traditionally been detected through manual surveying using metal detectors, but deminers have increasingly been using drones.
“They’re a great tool for surveying an area that you don’t want to step in,” said Steinberg, who now serves as the company’s lead software and AI engineer. “So far, it’s been really difficult for them to actually analyze these surveys, because there’s a lot of images, there’s a lot of area, and landmines can sometimes just be the size of your hand.”
The company’s solution, a software called SpotlightAi, rapidly processes detailed aerial imagery collected from drones to more accurately and effectively identify surface explosive threats.
“What we built is a web application where people upload their drone imagery, our AI finds the landmines and unexploded bombs, and produces maps of their contaminated area,” Steinberg said.
Since completing a prototype of the web application last June, the Safe Pro AI team has traveled to Ukraine several times to demonstrate the technology for their partners there. They hope to fully integrate the technology into the demining process in Ukraine this year.
Through I-Corps, Baur (now the company’s lead scientist) and Steinberg conducted customer discovery interviews that helped them make connections in Ukraine. Steinberg also credited I-Corps with helping them realize they would need to travel to Ukraine in order to make a real impact in the field of humanitarian demining.
“That was a hard lesson to receive, but it was ultimately true,” he said. “It’s not always easy what you learn. But you have to stay true to the process and trust the process. Trust the data.”
Steinberg and Baur started developing the technology as undergraduates at Binghamton. They completed an I-Corps regional course in 2020 and the national I-Corps Teams program in 2023.
“I started finding the right resources to go to learn about the field and the standards that the operators work by, and I started knowing the big players, the big NGOs in the game,” Steinberg said.
While the regional course served as an introduction to the humanitarian demining field, Steinberg said the national program helped solidify the specific role of their solution.
“At first, I thought that it would be used through the entire process of humanitarian demining operations,” he said. “Eventually I realized that this is really a tool that’s focused in on the first step, which is called the non-technical survey. This augments the first step, and it helps them perform the next steps more effectively and safely.”
Safe Pro AI’s efforts are currently focused on Ukraine given the war there, and the group hopes to have a positive humanitarian impact there and on the world more broadly. Baur and Steinberg also co-founded a nonprofit, Demining Research Community, focused on furthering the field of landmine detection technology by providing research and resources for other organizations in the field.
“We want to help demine Ukraine as well as other countries,” Steinberg said. “We really believe that our method, integrated deeply into the standards and practices of humanitarian deminers globally, will significantly improve their efficiency and safety. And that in turn will save lives and allow people to return to their land and will help the economy of the countries.”