The widespread development of TAK - Riskaware

The development of the ATAK app and TAK – what’s to come

TAK (Tactical Assault Kit) started out as a software product for Android devices called ATAK, developed by US Air Force Research Labs (AFRL). Over time, the product evolved beyond its original design, spanning a greater number of devices, users and applications.

Now, the kit is an impressively agile product, experiencing new enhancements and integrations on a regular basis. Many capabilities are powered by open-source communities which truly makes the software an innovation led by use cases and driven by diverse, collaborative expertise.   

It’s likely the TAK kit will continue to see expansion and development in the future. Its successful evolutionary history is a clear showcase for the potential of this solution, and an unofficial invitation for organisations to take on innovation challenges.   

Our CBRN team is supporting Aeris to develop a plug-in for the military-facing TAK product under a Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) contract. It will be focused on integrating a comprehensive dispersion capability which will provide superior, real-time situational intelligence for actors on the ground and in the field.  

A brief history of TAK

ATAK is the Android Tactical Assault Kit, developed by AFRL for Android OS. Using standard symbology, it allowed soldiers to communicate a common operating picture (COP), giving them a consistent map for navigation and situational awareness.   

The software integrates with various open-source data streams, such as street maps, to create a more comprehensive view. It enables coordination between thousands of users using geospatial features, from mission planning to positioning, and provides encrypted data communication.  

ATAK was delivered as a field-ready device for the US military in 2010, where the phone was deployed with a chest mount for greater usability on the move during missions. It has since been tested in countless real-world scenarios.   

One prominent deployment was in 2017, where ATAK was used by the Department of Homeland Security when responding after Hurricane Harvey devastated the state of Texas. In this scenario, it provided essential support for the coordination and communication of multiple, multi-jurisdictional responder groups. 

In 2020, ATAK was adopted by the US Army for land navigation and reconnaissance missions, replacing traditional methods used by the airborne troops. This has streamlined their surveillance processes exponentially and digitalised all planning. Similarly, the British Army has deployed ATAK which has been used as part of NATO’s Enhance Forward Presence.   

The core software has since been made available outside this organisation. It has been adopted across the world for various use cases and applications. Some of the organisations who have added their own capabilities include, The Air Force, FBI, Special Operations Forces, and more. It has also been integrated into 15 different defence departments for the US military.    

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), for example, were integrating ATAK with drones to enable live camera feeds which would stream directly to the devices of ground users, giving them fast and accurate location intelligence.   

In 2023 in Alaska, military forces included ATAK in their training. They used this real-time command and control (C2) system on a reconnaissance mission to improve on base defence measures and communications.   

Additionally, the software has been developed upon and spun out into different product variants, designed for different applications and users, and has even been made available to civilian users with reduced features.   

TAK and ATAK products

TAK has a large range of related products, including the ATAK products and WinTak products, as well as plug-ins. The primary use cases are aimed at military and civilian audiences. Some of these products include 

WebTAK

A browser-based web interface designed to share awareness and intelligence across multiple agencies.

WinTAK

An application built for Windows OS, available as both a public, civilian version and a military version.

iTAK

iTAK is a subset of ATAK capabilities designed for Apple iOS smart phone and tablet devices. iTak includes maps and imagery, overlays, chat, video, and situational awareness.  

ATAK-CIV

A version of TAK available to civilian users which is open-standard on Google Play. This is known as CivTAK, Civilian Team Awareness Kit, or ATAK-CIV, Android Team Awareness Kit Civilian.  

CivTAK is aimed at non-military audiences, including emergency services and US government departments. It is optimised for civilian-oriented use cases, such as public safety operations or large-scale disaster response. The original version of this was built for military.  

TAK Server

TAK Server is a tactical information management platform. It provides access to data and encryption across disparate networks. TAK Server achieves this by securing, brokering, and storing data in standalone and federated configurations. Certain situations may require users to use TAK Server, such as when they are not operating in a peer-to-peer network. 

TAK-X

TAK-X is the culmination of two of the most well-known Windows-based Command and Control platforms: WinTAK and RaptorX. Each of these products provides a robust moving map, imagery/terrain analytics, enhanced collaboration, blue force tracking (BFT), and communication and situational integration. Bringing them together, TAK-X is particularly well suited to extend these qualities into austere conditions. 

WinTAK-MIL

The Windows Tactical Assault Kit is a software application and mapping framework designed for Windows devices.

TAK Tracker

This solution is a lightweight, standalone android application used for sending location information to a TAK Server. It also supports sending chat and emergency messages.  

 

All of these versions are purpose-built for niche use cases. This is the beauty of TAK: that it can be configured to work perfectly for various deployment, intelligence and audience needs. The suite of TAK tools remains familiar and consistent across their interfaces and usability. 

This makes the skills learnt on one product much more transferable. Users can seamlessly work with any version whether they’ve been trained on it or not. This is especially helpful for transitioning from training scenarios to field work. Whether users have been using different systems or not, they will have no issue picking up these intelligence tools.  

This is extremely important when people’s safety is on the line. 

An open-source ATAK community

TAK is an agile product that has continued to evolve since it was originally created. The diversity of the product has been accentuated by its open-source abilities, allowing users to write novel software plug-ins that represent specific capabilities as additions to the core TAK offering.    

The US DoD have contributed to the solution with their own plug-ins, including the CB dispersion modelling plug-in DTRA created for ATAK. This plug-in acted as a compact, and reduced, version of their Hazard Prediction and Assessment Capability (HPAC).    

It additionally integrated intuitive route planning software to deliver tailored CBRN hazard mapping capability. This would allow users to navigate safely and efficiently during a hazardous incident where certain contaminated areas may need to be avoided.   

Users can also integrate high-resolution data and multiple data streams into the centralised, open-source TAK server. This allows users to enhance or alter the data available through TAK. For example, they could support targeted training scenarios, where users can run their data through the software to gain insight in advance of practical training.   

Riskaware’s TAK development

Working under Aeris, the Riskaware team is creating a more comprehensive version of the HPAC dispersion system to be deployed as a plug-in for WebTAK. Currently, our prototype is under development.  

WebTAK (Web Team Awareness Kit) is a geospatial collaboration platform that allows teams or agencies to share information and access data in real time. It can be accessed by mobile or desktop devices making it perfect for field operations. 

Our aim is to add CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear) intelligence to this product using comprehensive modelling capabilities and open-source data. The plug-in will use dispersion models to forecast how an airborne CBRN threat might travel and spread over time.  

This will support response or emergency planning. By understanding the potential movements and impact of an active CBRN threat, military teams can more appropriately deploy their resources and mitigation strategies. 

Intelligence will come in the form of hazard estimates, location awareness, and mapping intelligence for military users on the ground. This will be clearly displayed on a geospatial map for easy understanding. 

We are excited to see what will come of the TAK suite in future and expect much more to be achieved. We see potential for even more comprehensive versions of TAK to come to light as technology in both the defence and civil sectors becomes more advanced.   

 

Although TAK has come a long way from its inception, there’s plenty more opportunity to add capabilities and integrate the solution with other platforms, tools or devices. Further development could see TAK becoming an even more essential situational awareness tool for CBRN use cases, military teams, and more.   

Get in touch with the team to learn more about our development capabilities or find out more about our Urban CBRN/Hazard Consultancy work. 

Integrating CBRN hazard prediction and assessment capabilities with the TAK platform

Download the case study below to learn more.


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