By John HigginsSeptember 30, 2018
"Secure from worldly chances and mishaps! Here lurks no treason, here no envy swells, Here grow no damned grudges; here are no storms, No noise, but silence and eternal sleep: In peace and honor rest you here, my sons!" Titus Andronicus, Act I, Scene I, William Shakespeare.
In 2011, the Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) approached the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Army Geospatial Center (AGC) for assistance in identifying ways to collect, manage and create work flows for cemetery terrain data.
The initial goal was to streamline and modernize the cemetery's overall operations and accountability processes and streamline audit processes. AGC's technical and subject matter experts assessed the complex and resource-intensive ANC processes used to coordinate dozens of daily funerals, upkeep of more than 624 acres with hundreds of thousands of gravesites, and the associated day to day maintenance of extensive records for each person interred within its borders.
AGC in collaboration with ANC completed a massive project which utilized multiple terrain mapping technologies and personnel, creating GPS coordinates for each headstone, memorial, and monument with an estimated accuracy of 10 cm (3.9 inches). The teams painstakingly gathered vast amounts of data and are working with Geospatial Information & Services (GIS) to bring pin-point accuracy to a GPS-enabled map of ANC. This meticulous effort to gather information - includes geo-located photographs of the front and back of each headstone - served a solemn purpose. Prior to this project, there was no way for the general public to directly find a singular headstone and doing so often required extensive research by Arlington personnel.
AGC's efforts changed the way ANC operated on a daily basis and enhanced accountability of recordkeeping for the more than 500,000 interred individuals. It had the added benefit of revolutionizing the way the cemetery interacted with its millions of visitors, both at the cemetery and with virtual visitors using the ANC Explorer web and mobile applications. At the cemetery, visitors can access cemetery data, search for loved ones, or find famous gravesites by using the kiosks running the ANC Explorer. Virtual visitors have identical functionality using the program on their home computer or mobile device.
Thanks to the efforts of AGC; ANC is now the global standard for cemetery operations, gravesite accountability, and visitor experiences. Due to the success of the ANC project, the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) collaborated with AGC to apply the same data capture and analysis techniques through a pilot program on two ABMC cemeteries. ABMC administers, operates, and maintains 26 permanent American military cemeteries and 29 federal memorials, monuments, and markers. These memorials are located in 16 foreign countries, the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the British Dependency of Gibraltar, as well as three memorials located within the United States. The pilot program consisted of two locations, one at the Corozal American Cemetery in Panama City, Panama, and the other the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France; which combined, will consist of more than 15,000 gravesites allowing the development a database similar to that developed for ANC.
AGC was chosen to spearhead this mission due to its past experiences, subject matter in-house terrain expertise and in-house survey knowledge and tool sets that could be leveraged to address the complexity of surveying on a global scale. Natalie Martinez-Vega, who led the original data capture efforts at ANC recognized a large piece of the support to ABMC required modern easy to use available capabilities that minimized overall costs, decreased collection times and provided data formats that would be easy to manage.
Product Director Combat Terrain Information Systems (PD CTIS) which falls under Project Manager Terrestrial Sensors, a branch of the Program Executive Office, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors fields two programs of record that are used by Military surveyors and terrain managers. PD CTIS capabilities were well suited for this mission set, already in use worldwide and meet the technology needs with no modifications.
PD CTIS is managed by George Ohanian who is also dual hatted as the Branch Chief Military Construction, Engineering, and Survey Support Branch (MCESB) US Army Geospatial Center. Combining the unique capabilities under Mr. Ohanian's Branch, specifically, the Instrument Set, Reconnaissance and Surveying (ENFIRE) and the Global Position System-Survey (GPS-S) created a perfect opportunity to support the terrain mapping mission of ABMC. ENFIRE is a highly modernized suite of capabilities used by Army Combat Engineers to capture and manage terrain information. Through commercial peripherals ENFIRE digitally gathers terrain data and composes it into simple easy to process constructs.
The ENFIRE kit itself contains a ruggedized PC that converts into a tablet, that integrate with various peripheral devices that include long, short, and precision range finders digital camcorder/ cameras, scanners, a digital pen, battery powered field use printers and a variety of other devices. ENFIRE employs commercial and custom software to populate standard military forms with information fed into it by the linked peripheral components. Accompanying the ENFIRE kit, PD CTIS provided the ruggedized GPS-S survey suite that would be used to survey each headstone. GPS-S collects extremely precise position and location within 1 cm and seamlessly interoperates with ENFIRE such that data is collected and managed once.
In addition, the overall data capture process needed to be robust, accurate, fast and operate in various weather conditions to collect massive amounts of geospatial data rapidly, which ENFIRE and GPS-S could easily do. To further expedite the mission, PD CTIS proposed a combination of traditional surveying methods and recommended the inclusion of a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) backpack system, in conjunction with the ENFIRE and GPS-S kit. This overall combination is also the prototype model being assessed as the suite of terrain data collection tool set for the future Army Surveying community.
On the most basic level, Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) works by sending out a beam of light and measuring the time it takes to return to the sensor. It does this rapidly and with extreme precision and also seamlessly works with ENFIRE and GPS-S. Ohanian notes "the ability to apply proven and in-use easy to use solutions allows for rapid data collection and analysis without expending additional dollars to solve complex problem. Our focus was to creatively use our tools so that we could demonstrate the power of integrated modern technologies to perform multiple type's terrain capture in real time."
The LiDAR capability, its usage, integration into ENFIRE and application was solved by Matthew Staley. He is a Physical Scientist with Military Construction, Engineering, and Survey Support Branch (MCESB) US Army Geospatial Center. For this pilot project, Staley worked with Natalie Martinez-Vega to ensure proper operation of the equipment and that surveying procedures were implemented to maintain data integrity and all work was accomplished in a timely and orderly manner.
Leveraging ENFIRE, GPS-S, LiDAR and Apple Smartphone cameras, the team consisting of AGC, PD CTIS and soldiers from the 512th Engineer Detachment commenced with the overall mission to map and capture detailed data on Corozal and Normandy.
Starting in June of 2018, the team traveled to Corozal and spent a week surveying each headstone and monument using the GPS-S suite. This was followed by walking the cemetery to capture all terrain features with the LiDAR backpack which in turn was followed by a photograph of each headstone front and back with the Smartphone. The collected data was processed on the ENFIRE laptop summer the two test cemeteries have been collected and data processing is ongoing. The team then traveled to Normandy France for two weeks and applied the same techniques, tools and processes. Once complete, the team captured precise details on the locations of over 15,000 headstones, terrain features that included roads, sidewalks, trees, curbs, gutters, monuments and many other man made features.
Although the primary mission was to capture data related to interments, the ability to leverage ENFIRE, GPS-S and LiDAR will provide data that can be used by ANC to audit the grounds, update their records, perform construction and grounds maintenance assessment from the collected LiDAR data and develop strategic plans for their business process. AGC is closely collaborating with ANC and ABMC to assess the two pilot efforts and determine a strategy on how to move forward. The ability to leverage PD CTIS hardware and software capabilities and well as resources from the 512th ensured costs were minimized. Ultimately, this activity proved that PD CTIS capabilities could be applied to multiple mission sets based on their open architecture, easy to use due their commercial off the shelf (COTS) configuration and provided an overall excellent return on investment for multiple communities.