Defence Forces unfolds mapmaking hi-tech deal

12 Feb 2004

The Irish Defence Forces have signed a deal with ESRI Ireland to implement a new geographic information system (GIS) that enables the army to create high quality customised maps for soldiers engaged in maneuvers, tactical training exercises and reconnaissance.

The aim of the deal is to enable the Defence Forces to cut down on the €14,500 a year that is currently spent on the purchase of paper maps.

The ESRI mapping system will be used by three army brigades as well as the Air Corps and the Defence Forces Training Centre (DFTC).

The DFTC is responsible for preparing mapping for training and tests. For example, recruits are given maps of certain areas and have to use them to build a scenario of where they would place troops, build a base camp and put in place communications technology in relation to where enemy and friendly forces are situated.

The system is also used to provide information for reconnaissance missions; the most recent of which was to Liberia. The forces can obtain maps of the country in question and use the GIS to investigate road networks, land coverage and available services; crucial to deciding on locating base camps and moving troops.

The ESRI GIS replaces a mapping system that had failed to meet the Defence Force’s requirements. As a result of the failed system, users had to revert to buying paper maps from the Ordnance Survey. This often resulted in soldiers’ cutting up and sticking maps together as well as the production of over 2,000 new maps a year.

Following a tender involving several GIS providers, the Defence Forces went with ESRI, which teamed up with Paradigm Technology. The deal will involve in ESRI providing the army with Hewlett-Packard plotting technology.

“The new ESRI GIS has facilitated a big increase in flexibility and productivity,” commented Sergeant Troy Murray of the DFTC. “It allows us to quickly and easily create seamless maps of the required area, put in scales and co-ordinates and send them to the plotter. Most users had mapping experience, but we all found the system really easy to get to grips with and get the results we wanted straight away.”

By John Kennedy