By Capt. W. Gabe Powell Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering
On March 29, the crisp spring air over Aachen MOUT site was filled with the sound of whirring propellers and the sight of what would once have been a matter of science fiction.
Fixed and rotary wing drones of all sizes were buzzing across the sky as strange looking instruments on tripods spun on the ground.
The activities of the day were the result of months of planning and coordination across seven organizations from the public, private and defense sectors.
The exercise was initiated by Lt. Col.Christopher Hartline, director of the West Point Simulation Center, and Lt. Col. Ian Irmischer, assistant professor of Geospatial Information Science (GIS) in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering.
The goal was two-fold: Develop Soldier centric capabilities for impromptu 3D mapping using small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) and develop methodologies and proof of concepts for developing simulation terrain from sUAS.
Those involved included cadets and instructors from the GIS Program at the USMA; the Institute of Creative Technologies (ICT), in Los Angeles; the Geospatial Research Laboratory (GRL) for the Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), Alexandria, Virginia; Advanced Training and Simulation Division (ATSD), Human Research and Engineering Directorate, Army Research Laboratory, Orlando, Florida; the Applied Research Lab, Penn State University, and Propellerheads Aerial Photography, in Middletown, New York.
Three dimensional immersive maps were created from the imagery and LiDAR data collected of Aachen MOUT site. The next step was to generate a 3D simulation for immersion in the computer assisted virtual environment (CAVE) at the Simulation Center at USMA.
The process used a Unity gaming development environment to push future Army training into the virtual world.
This summer, GIS majors at USMA will have the opportunity to attend Academic Individual Advanced Development (AIADs) and conduct capstone research projects in the realm of 3D modeling and the creation of synthetic training environments.
They will collect data using a multitude of tools available in the GIS program in conjunction with ICT, GRL and ATSD to discover ways to improve efficiencies of current training methods.
To keep up with the rapidly evolving technologies available to the current Warfighter, cadets will soon have the ability to fly a drone during Cadet Summer Training, process the data into a 3D model and brief their squad using enhanced three dimensional mapping products.