We see you! US Army working on “Google Earth on steroids” 3D map that can simulate the inside of buildings

Saturday, November 23, 2019
By Paul Martin

by: Lance D Johnson
Friday, November 22, 2019

If you thought Google Earth was rather revealing, then you’re about to feel naked in your own home. The U.S. military wants to take 3-D maps a step further and penetrate walls.

The U.S. military is currently developing a “Google Earth on steroids” that can see inside buildings and simulate functional indoor spaces. This virtual 3D mapping system would not only provide the government with accurate 3D maps of roads, neighborhoods, and the placement of dwellings, but it would also detail the inside of buildings – giving the government eyes inside your own home.

U.S. military using drones and AI to piece together the interior layout of buildings

This intrusively accurate 3D mapping technology would help soldiers simulate missions and carry out their objectives with precision. Advances in this technology have helped the military map cities in mere hours. These sophisticated 3D maps will also be able to simulate the actual topography of the environment, including changes in elevation and terrain. According to National Defense, the mapping will be so precise; it will be able to go behind closed doors to help soldiers see inside enemy territory, or alternately, inside homes.

As the military generates these sophisticated maps, they plan to use them for training. The military aims to recreate realistic scenarios using Simulated Training Environments (STEs). The maps will be used to detail specific locations around the globe so that soldiers can virtually prepare themselves for what lies ahead in the battlefield. The initiative is called One World Terrain.

Using satellite imagery and drone technology, the military is able to make these detailed maps a reality. According to reports from Defense One, a research team was able to reconstruct an entire city within eight hours. The researchers, using unmanned aerial vehicles and sophisticated software, were also able to recreate the inside of a compound in about an hour. Photos compiled by the drones are analyzed by artificial intelligence to piece together an accurate 3D layout inside buildings. Jason Knowles, an army researcher, told National Defense that the “interior of buildings are now being fused and snapped inside of that 3D model.”

“We were able to throw that UAS (unmanned aircraft system) up, capture that in an hour, put it on the laptop, process it, and push it out,” said Knowles. Knowles says the software tools enable researchers to “strip the outside of a building level by level” to “see what’s inside the building.” Further advancements in AI will allow the military to understand how the walls are constructed, whether they can be penetrated by ammunition, taken down by vehicles, or breached by explosives.

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