Armed With Science

Drone Mapping Improves Warfighter Training, Saves Money

April 17, 2019 | BY Yolanda R. Arrington

Scientists are using virtual and augmented reality to improve training environments for the warfighter. The technology empowers service members on the ground while saving the Defense Department money in the process.

The University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies' One World Terrain project provides the military with a set of 3D global terrain capabilities that replicate an operational environment. It uses a wide collection of data to make this happen, including terrain flyovers with unmanned aircraft. Images captured from these flyovers are then used to produce 3D models for line-of-sight training and threat analysis.

A Marine flies drone.
Drone Flight
A Marine flies a drone during Small Unmanned Aircraft System training at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 4, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Cpl. Melanye Martinez
VIRIN: 190204-M-MS784-1065

Saving Money With Innovation

One World Terrain consolidates the different types of training and simulation systems into one environment, saving the DOD time and money.

The research gives data collection capabilities to small military units by providing them with an off-the-shelf drone system, thus removing the reliance on professional surveying companies. Five years ago, this would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Now, it can be done for as little as $1,000.

A Marine tests a drone.
Test Flight
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Trevor J. Poole, initiates a test flight of a drone at an innovation cell in San Jose, Calif., Feb. 9, 2019.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Markeith Hall
VIRIN: 190209-M-RO698-013A

Future of Terrain Technology

The military is adopting the innovative technology. The Office of Naval Research, the Marine Corps and the Army are using the One World Terrain research. The rapid 3D terrain capture and reconstruction pipeline is central to the Marines' Tactical Decision Kit. The Army has implemented the system in its Synthetic Training Environment.

The long-term goal is for One World Terrain to enable warfighters to have a realistic geospatial foundation during training exercises.

Soldiers operate drones.
Tethered Drone
Soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division operate the Army's tethered drone during Network Integration Exercise 18.2 in El Paso, Texas, Oct. 30, 2018.
Photo By: Army Pfc. Andrew Garcia
VIRIN: 181030-A-JY365-0046

Video by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class James Veal