NEWS FROM ITEC: Army’s ‘Google Earth on Steroids’ to Include Inside of Buildings

By Stew Magnuson

Image: iStock

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — The Army’s ambitious plan to re-create the world in fine resolution for its new training and simulation program will include the inside of buildings, a researcher working on the program said May 15.

The Synthetic Training Environment intends to train all warfighting functions as well as the human dimensions of warfare, which include interacting with locals. It will be flexible, support repetition and be available at the point of need, according to the Army. Current training and simulation systems are not interoperable, affordable or realistic enough, the Army has said. To get at the latter problem, the service wants to create One World Terrain software to duplicate complex environments including large cities.

Terrain capture and reconstruction will allow soldiers to further gather information and make more detailed simulations of their environments, said Jason Knowles, director of geospatial science and technology at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technology, an Army affiliated research center. The institute is part of a cross-functional team working on the One World Terrain project.

The data set is being called “Google Earth on steroids,” he said.

Knowles at a briefing during the ITEC conference in Stockholm, Sweden, showed a picture of a compound that was captured and digitally re-created within an hour using commercial-off-the-shelf software and a hand-launched unmanned aerial system. “We were able to throw that UAS up, capture that in an hour, put it on the laptop, process it, and push it out,” he said.

“The ability to have an individual or a squad go out, collect their own organic 3D model for ingesting into their modeling and simulation is huge for us,” he said.

The cross-functional team creating the One World Terrain system is also adding building interiors to their data sets.

“The interior of buildings are now being fused and snapped inside of that 3D model,” Knowles said. The program has tools that can “strip the outside of a building level by level and see what’s inside the building. That’s obviously very useful for operators.”

That data is being fused with GPS data so they can be used to plan real operations, not just training, he said. A unit planning on breaching a door can feed the data into its software and know how far to safely stand away from a blast, he noted.

The One World Terrain system is fed by overhead imagery from satellites and aircraft. That is coarser resolution at 30 to 40 centimeters, Knowles said. Small drones scanning an area can collect much finer resolution imagery, he added.

The program is using machine learning for the data fusion component to “make the model smart, so it’s not just [identifying objects in] pictures,” he said. For example, there might be a picture representing a wall, but it would be helpful if the model could tell whether that type of wall could be breached with a vehicle or munition.

Storage and distribution is a main challenge, Knowles said. How does the Army get these large, gigabyte-sized 3D models to the point of need? he asked.

The Synthetic Training Environment fits in with the Army's top six modernization priorities, which are: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality. The STE is part of the soldier lethality portfolio, but it could aid the other modernization efforts, officials have noted.


Topics: Army News, Information Technology, Infotech, Intelligence and Surveillance, Training and Simulation, Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training

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