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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is rolling out software that allows troops on the frontline to have access to have the most accurate, up-to-date mapping information.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is rolling out software that allows troops on the frontline to have access to have the most accurate, up-to-date mapping information.

According to Anthony Giles, warrant officer for the MoD and part of the Royal Engineers, it is implementing Esri’s GEO Viewer in for troops in Afghanistan “as we speak”. The technology produces maps with more than 350 layers of information, such as the location of the latest IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and casualties.

As well as producing digital maps, the MoD uses the software to produce hard copies for patrols to take into the field.

“We use the software to provide a common operating picture in theatre,” said Giles. “We have lots of data coming in and our users need to see the same data. The same picture they’re using needs to be the same picture the guys on the ground are seeing.”

The geographic information systems (GIS) mapping software from Esri also allows maps to be edited digitally, within a browser. This is a significant improvement from previous practice, where editing was only done on spreadsheets. Now, data and edited maps can be shared more easily.

One of the MoD’s uses of the software is to map out ‘intervisibility’ - to show on a map what area can be seen from a certain vantage point under given conditions, such as distance and gradient.

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This analysis has been sped up “by 50 times”, said Giles, as it can now be done in a web browser.

“It is a lot faster to get the results. On a VM [virtual machine] that takes two seconds,” he said.

The MoD is currently upgrading from Esri ArcGIS 9.3.1 to version 10.1.