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Australian Digital Mapping Technology

Department of Defence Media Release

PACC 248/00 6 September 2000


The Australian Defence Force will soon be able to perform a virtual reconnaissance into a military operation using Australian-produced digital mapping technology.

Four Australian companies, two of which are based in regional centres, are converting existing maps and charts of Australia and its territories to digital "smart" maps known as Vector Smart Maps (VMAP). These digital "maps" are unique because the information is structured so that topographic features in the VMAP "know" what other features exist around them. This information will be critical in giving the Australian Defence Force the knowledge edge in planning and executing operations.

The VMAPS, which were used in East Timor, mean that the Australian Defence Force will now be able to assess the terrain, position and power of an enemy and develop strategies to seize control of the operation.

According to Project Director, Major Frank Franceschini, a thorough understanding of the terrain is essential to the success of any military operation.

"The VMAP provides a Commander in the field with state-of-the-art technology that can identify a position, interrogate that position for access to water, fuel, cover and parking for vehicles, determine areas of visibility to the enemy and assess its strength and develop strategies accordingly.

"Accurate geographic information of our country is as essential to the country's infrastructure as our road and rail or communication networks," he said.

The Australian companies producing the VMAP are: AiResearch in Brisbane; Aspect North in Lismore; Intergraph Mapping Services in Bendigo; and LandInfo in Melbourne.

Aspect North in Lismore and Intergraph Mapping Services in Bendigo are already exporting their technology to the United States through contract work and software developed in Australia.

In developing the technology, the Department of Defence discovered the absence of a single package able to guarantee the reliability of maps to accepted international and industry standards. In response, the department developed world first Quality Assurance Tools based on the ESRI ArcView software. The Quality Assurance Tools will provide a robust scientific way of assigning a reliability statement to any digital product.

The VMAPs, to be completed by September 2001, include all of Tasmania and Victoria, most of New South Wales, approximately the top one-third of West Australia and the Northern Territory and all of Cape York and the coast of Queensland.

An exceptional 95 per cent of the VMAPS contract value will be spent in Australia - a sizeable proportion for an IT contract.


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