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A technology originating in the US military sector is being tested in order to help save firefighters’ lives. The ATAK – Android Team Awareness Kit is essentially a tool that tells firefighters exactly where they are and what kind of fire they’re seeing.
ATAK was developed by the US Air Force Research Lab in order to help keep Special Forces safe in war zones. It would show fighter pilots where troops were on the ground, so the pilots wouldn’t accidentally fire on American forces.
The DHS considers it as one of those game-changers that dramatically alters the user’s understanding of the action in any given area of operation. The app uses GPS and maps to give the user a real-time view of the area, as reported by the DHS website.
This new situational awareness capability includes “Blue Force Tracking” to see where team members are (which reduces friendly fire incidents and helps with coordinating movements), “Red Force Tracking” to see where the bad guys are (obvious advantages), as well as terrain, weather, and other topographical elements.
Now, Colorado is the only state that has federal approval to take that technology and tweak it for firefighters, according to kdvr.com.
Many times wildfires happen in remote areas with very little cell service. Pseudo-satellites are being tested also. Those are basically solar-powered planes that would fly in the stratosphere and send a cell signal down to firefighters below.
This past summer, some Colorado firefighters tested ATAK while battling the Lake Christine, Cabin Lake and Tabeguache fires. They used high-powered radios to create a network, of sorts, in the area to allow the phones to communicate.
Colorado will keep testing and tweaking the ATAK technology and hopes to have it ready for firefighters nationwide in a few years.
A government-off-the-shelf app for Android smartphone, ATAK is available to all government agencies for free, but the state is spending some money to tweak it and implement it.