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SBIR Success Stories


Posted on September 8th, 2017

Increased capability in natural environment data capture, such as light imaging, detection and ranging (LIDAR), dramatically increases the need for even higher resolution terrain representations and services. Previously, the most complex synthetic natural environment (SNE) representation focused on correlation with a visual representation; but live, embedded and automated applications require correlation with the complexities of the real world. At the same time, embedded applications have limited storage and processing capacity. As a result, there is a growing need for lightweight, high resolution terrain engines.


Through the High-Fidelity Runtime Database Engine (HFRDE) program, Dignitas Technologies and Applied Research Associates (ARA), developed a reusable terrain database format and services to support extremely high resolution natural environments, with minimal processor and memory footprint requirements. This component provides an advanced terrain analysis capability on mobile and embedded devices.


The terrain services component, known as the Layered Terrain Format (LTF), provides terrain services such as line-of-sight and collision detection on extremely compact and high resolution data. This capability can support live, virtual and constructive training scenarios. Building upon LTF functionality, a series of innovative mobile device applications (apps) were implemented, including the Tactical Terrain Analysis (TTA) app providing Soldiers the ability to conduct mission planning and analysis functions on mobile devices without access to a wireless network. Dignitas developed TRACR Ultra Lite (TÜL), which provides control of targets at live fire ranges from an Android tablet. This app allows training facilitators to control range targets without radioing back to a central control tower.

Each of the key development pieces had great transition success. The TTA app has been used for analysis to support orienteering courses at the United States Military Academy at West Point. The TTA app was installed on the cadets’ tablets, so it could be used during their courses. Other user trials resulted in feedback on functionality and greatest value for individual Soldiers. TÜL has been demonstrated at Fort Pickett’s Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center and fielded at Fort Irwin, Fort Riley, Camp Ripley and Fort Stewart for squad and platoon training. Dignitas Technologies was awarded $2.4M in commercialization funding investments that led to commercialization funding supported by Project Manager Training Devices (PM TRADE) and Advanced Training & Simulation Division (ATSD). Additionally, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the United States Military Academy (U.S.MA), the University of Central Florida (UCF) and live fire training locations have invested labor in evaluations, user trials and collaboration efforts. These commercialization funding investments have been the springboard necessary to advance research topics into practical applications, while supporting current Warfighter needs.

U.S. Army simulation systems employ sophisticated models to provide realistic, high fidelity synthetic environments to train and prepare today’s Warfighter. Dynamic terrain models the changes to the synthetic environment due to real-time simulation events. However, dynamic terrain is one technology area that has not kept up with today’s Army simulation training. Often, dynamic terrain models are based on 20-year-old technology, providing simple and primitive representations of changes to the synthetic environment.


Army Dynamic Terrain research and development efforts produced many technologies to advance dynamic terrain for modeling, simulation and training. Army Phase I, Phase II and Phase II-Enhancement SBIR projects developed open, non-proprietary technologies for advanced interactive dynamic terrain. These technologies provided many features such as subsurface soil models; weather effects on the environment; physics-based interactions including, soil resistance and procedurally generated environment objects. This SBIR research and development focused on transition of developed technologies into Army modeling, simulation and training production programs.


Dignitas was awarded over $6.8M for four separate Dynamic Terrain commercialization contracts to continue research and development of advanced dynamic terrain technologies for transition to Army simulation programs. Commercialization investments were provided by a number of sources: ARL-Human Research & Engineering, Advanced Training and Simulation Division, PEO STRI Synthetic Environment (SE) Core, PEO STRI Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT), and PM Combat Engineering and Material Handling Equipment. This investment extended technologies to enable terrain modifications throughout the synthetic environment, terrain skin modification at any depth or height, terrain modifications through weapon detonations or interactive activity and distribution of the modifications to support collective training. The subsurface soil model includes soil attribution, soil horizons and soil profiles enabling complex soil interactions and behaviors (erosion, traction, compaction and physics-based resistances). For example, rain causes change to soil characteristics and behavior, including water saturation levels and accumulation.


The success of Dignitas’ commercialization is demonstrated through transition of advanced dynamic terrain capabilities to several Army simulation programs. The technologies that have been integrated include the gridded terrain model into One Semi-Automated Force (OneSAF), the advanced dynamic terrain model into AVCATT and Common Driver Trainer (CDT), and the dynamic terrain network protocol into SE Core. Dignitas developed a Software Development Kit (SDK) so advanced dynamic terrain technologies can be easily integrated into simulation training systems. The SDK was also used as a reference implementation for the Constructive Equipment Virtual Trainer (CEVT) solicitation. Using the technology stemming from the initial SBIR award, Dignitas is coordinating the integration into two additional simulators for future use.

Dignitas Technologies, established in 2004, is dedicated to understanding customer Modeling, Simulation, & Training (MS&T) needs and providing specialized, architecture-centric, agile solutions. We specialize in system and software analysis, design, development, testing, and fielding of MS&T and mission rehearsal applications.

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