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  • Product Sheet: UXO Hazard and Risk mapping

UXO Hazard and Risk mapping

Image credit: Hatfield Consultants



Component products

Integrated Product

  • Land cover characterisation
  • Surficial geology/soil type
  • Urban area/settlement map
  • Elevation
  • Slope, curvature, aspect


  • Seismic planning - identification of adverse terrain for trafficability

Geo-information requirements

  • UXO hazard identification
  • Precision ortho-images
  • Terrain information
  • Topographic Information
  • Detailed land use information
  • Detailed land cover information
  • Distribution and status of infrastructure
  • Distribution and status of assets


The UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) Hazard and Risk Mapping support product can be delivered from the project/license area scale to regional scales. While there is no current EO technology that can reliably detect UXO, EO technology is used to create a battle area picture to identify areas that would pose higher risk of UXO contamination, and therefore require more stringent ground surveys. The Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining provides guidance regarding UXO and landmine clearance practices.

Recent and historical conflicts present significant health and safety risks for seismic surveys and other oil industry operations, as areas contaminated by UXO (also known as ERW, or Explosive Remnants of War) and minefields exist globally in areas of prior conflicts.

In recent conflicts like Iraq, Kuwait and Kurdistan, many cluster munitions and/or minefields remain in place and pose a serious risk to field activities. Mine and UXO clearance activities can be time consuming and very costly; however, with effective planning and mitigation procedures in place, cost reductions can be made by identifying high and low risk areas and adjusting programming accordingly. Areas affected by long-ago conflicts can also pose a HSE risk to operations. UXO contamination is significant in some areas of Eastern European and North African countries as a legacy of WWII, while more recent conflicts such as in the Mekong Region and Balkans have increased previous UXO hazard in those areas. In Europe, some former conflict areas have fallen into disuse and have never been cleared. Both farmed and forested areas pose a risk to Vibroseis activities and dynamite operations that could disturb UXO located below usual tillage depths. In addition, forested areas pose a risk to receiver layout crews where UXO have lain undisturbed since past conflicts. Similar threats exist in several other regions of the world.

Although much of the identification and clearance activities are ground based, battle area pictures are constructed in advance of operations with the support of high resolution DEM and satellite imagery datasets. These products are used to help identify high risk areas and support prioritisation and logistics processes; heavily contaminated areas could be avoided altogether to reduce operational risks and clearance costs. The product relies on expert interpretation, and requires military knowledge. For more recent conflicts, multi-temporal, high resolution optical and radar images can support an improved interpretation. Change detection between images can identify disturbance patterns that may indicate UXO contamination. Detection of physical damage as indicators of bombing activity is also possible (e.g., craters).

The UXO hazard and risk mapping product delivers battle area picture information, including factors such as terrain, land cover, soil types and proximity to human populations and infrastructure, and may integrate historic military records. Hazard and risk assessments may include a quantitative treatment of factors, but are finalised based on expert judgment.

Known restrictions / limitations

Optical-derived products:

  • § Limitations with optical derived products may result from the density of vegetation and distribution of infrastructure and assets, which may affect the ability and reliability of visual detection of any hazards. 5 to 30 m resolution imagery (e.g., RapidEye and Landsat) is suitable for battle area picture creation; however imagery better than 5 m resolution would be required to successfully identify potential battle strike zones and minefields.
  • § Knowledge of tactical warfare is required to effectively interpret and integrate EO data for UXO hazard and risk evaluation, while current EO products play a supporting role in identification and clearance planning processes.

Thermal-derived EO products:

  • § A potential limitation with thermal derived products is their relatively coarse spatial resolution. Modern land mines are small and designed to confound detection. Similarly, cluster munitions are very small. Heavy artillery strikes involve larger munitions, but can also penetrate the ground and become covered by soils over time. Thermal imagery would be most effective if acquired just after sun down when the earth starts to cool and target objects still retain some heat.

Radar-derived products:

  • § Very high (relative) resolution DEM data would be required to identify the subtleties of munition strikes and mine field layout patterns. Lower resolution DEMs can be used to support the creation of a battle area picture.

Other considerations:

  • § Other non-EO products, such as airborne magnetic imagery have potential to detect certain UXO that cannot be detected using current EO datasets.

Lifecycle stage and demand











Pre-License: Information on potential UXO contaminated areas and other evident risks like minefields to support decision-making and evaluations on a prospect. Initial products would include a battle field picture from relevant conflict information combined with topographic/terrain models and high resolution satellite imagery.

Exploration: Critical historical information to support effective and safe land seismic surveys. The historic battle field picture includes identification of offensive and defensive positions and their current ground conditions, and highlights areas that were likely subjected to attacks or mined for defence. This is a risk mitigation and risk reduction process that can be significant in both time and cost. Operations need to identify and delineate potential UXO and minefield areas that may require clearance, for the management of health and safety risks. By identifying high risk areas in advance, any clearance efforts can be optimised on a risk level basis. As the associated costs of clearance efforts for minefields and UXO contaminated areas is considerable, the identification of high risk areas to avoid during any planning process can result in cost savings and reduce HSE risk exposure throughout the asset value chain in areas of high contamination.

Development: Critical historical information for planning and design of infrastructure. As the development of an asset progresses, more people and equipment become involved in operations, which increases the potential risks. Ground excavation and more concentrated construction work activity increases. Generally in a contaminated area, ongoing field-based land clearance activities occur, but these can be large scale and costly and need to be budgeted for in advance.

Production: Risks are still present during production, as people travel around assets to service installations and more infrastructure is commissioned. Generally, ongoing ground based mitigation processes will be in place in an affected area.

Decommissioning: Although residual risks remain, a ground based identification and mitigation process should be in place by this point.

Geographic coverage and demand

Demand is global; however currently Eastern Europe, the Middle East/Western Asia, North Africa and Central/East and South-East Asia have the largest UXO issues.

Demand is focused on areas with previous history of military conflict.

Challenges Addressed

OTM:048  Identifying munitions debris (ERW, mines, etc.)

HC:1214  Identify restricted areas that must be avoided

HC:1215  Identify ERW related hazards


Input data sources

Optical: VHR2, HR1

Radar: HR1

Supporting data:

  • Digital elevation models (DEM)
  • Existing  GIS data such as topographic maps, infrastructure, and assets
  • Local knowledge and tactical warfare knowledge

Spatial resolution and coverage

In general, high resolution data is required to identify subtle and small objects. Indirect evidence of ordnance use, such as craters or particular land disturbance patterns may be on the scale of 10 m or less.

Minimum Mapping Unit (MMU)


Accuracy / constraints

Thematic accuracy: UXO hazard and risk is typically presented in qualitative terms.

Spatial accuracy: The goal would be 1 pixel for land cover assessment and crater delineation, but depends on reference data.

Accuracy assessment approach & quality control measures

Accuracy assessment or the value of the EO-derived information would be determined based on the benefits derived from more efficient and effective field operations.

Frequency / timeliness

Observation frequency: Unless there is an ongoing conflict, there is no requirement for regular data delivery. For ongoing conflicts, datasets collected before and after engagements would prove useful, however results can be produced from post-conflict datasets alone.

Timeliness of delivery: Delivery time is not critical as the risk is generally already in place and not changing. In a dynamic conflict all operations would stop until an all clear is given. At that point, a new battle area picture would be built up.


On-demand availability from commercial suppliers.

New acquisitions can be requested globally.

Archived products available for public search. Availability may be limited for specific dates or locations.

Delivery / output format

Data type:

  • Raster
  • Vector (depending on customer needs)

File format:

  • Geotiff
  • Shapefile or any other OGC standard file formats


Download product sheet. 

Lead author:

Hatfield Consultants / RPS

Peer reviewer:

OTM / WesternGeco



Document Title:

UXO Hazard and Risk Mapping

# of Pages:



Internal – Project consortium and science partners


External – ESA

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