Battlefield Simulation

Geospatial data can describe many aspects of a theater of operations in a battlefield simulation and help prepare frontline forces for deployment to the area. Between vector features containing specific attributes, raster images showing the lay of the land, and 3D data modeling terrain, a full picture of an area can be found within a map and the data it contains. Analyzing readily available data allows the user and map viewer to explore an area further and determine how best to interact with it. Research to better understand the characteristics of a region in preparation for fieldwork is made easier with Global Mapper

Preparation—from research to active simulation—is important in fieldwork endeavors but becomes essential when it helps to train and equip teams in unfamiliar territory. Global Mapper is notably used by various military and defense agencies worldwide for battlefield simulation and training. Branches of the U.S. military, the French Ministry of Defense, and the Canadian Department of Defense all utilize the various tools in Global Mapper for research and data preparation. The versatility of the Global Mapper tools and file formats allows users to analyze up-to-date data to inform current intel.

Loading and Creating Data

With the vast number of data formats supported in Global Mapper, loading data to visualize and explore an area is simple. For ease of use, Global Mapper includes an extensive list of built-in online sources that assist in streaming publicly available data into the program. For agencies that create and process data into internally hosted sources, Global Mapper supports the addition of custom online sources. This allows for easy deployment of updated data within an organization. 

As drones become more accessible to civilians, they are an equally valuable resource in military and defense reconnaissance. Drone-captured images of any area can be loaded into Global Mapper for analysis. Typically, drone or aerial images are geotagged and not fully georeferenced, so they appear in the program as points representing the camera location where the image was captured. This point position combined with camera parameters can be used to project each image onto the map. This analysis can then be taken a step further with the software’s Pixels to Points tool.

The individual drone-collected images shown as picture points are individually projected in the Global Mapper workspace.

The Pixels to Points tool in Global Mapper Pro is used to generate a seamless orthoimage, 3D point cloud, and 3D mesh or model from overlapping drone or aerial images. This process, repeated at regular intervals with newly collected data, works to create a library of orthoimages and 3D models that can be compared over time to monitor change in an area.

The Pixels to Points tool processes the set of overlapping, drone-collected images to generate a single orthoimage.

Visual Analysis

In any battlefield situation, the lay of the land plays a major role in field operations. To show and explore the terrain for a theater of operations in Global Mapper, the available visualization options allow for highlighting features of interest. Terrain Shaders, Dynamic Hill Shade, and the 3D Viewer show characteristics of the terrain data in great detail. The importance of initial visual analysis of terrain and image data cannot be underestimated as it familiarizes the user with the area, and these visualizations can be used to generate textured mesh features for use in immersive simulation scenarios. 

By changing the terrain shader and adjusting the dynamic hillshade options, the terrain features are more clearly seen in the 3D view.

Additionally, videos of a flight over the terrain can be recorded from the 3D view of Global Mapper to aid in simulation exercises. A flythrough recording of an area can be derived from an existing flight recording or from a line feature created in the map view. Using these methods, the camera view parameters for each vertex along the line can be adjusted to fine-tune the recorded view. 

An alternate method for recording a video of the terrain is to use the 3D Viewer Walk Mode or Fly Mode. These modes of movement in the 3D Viewer offer a user-controlled first-person perspective used to navigate around the terrain to explore and record the path of movement. In the end, a video recording of the 3D data can be saved to a common video format from any path created using Walk Mode or Fly Mode.

Fly Mode in the 3D Viewer, controlled by keyboard shortcuts and mouse movements, takes the user on a flight over the terrain.

Line of Sight and Viewshed Analysis

Line of sight and viewshed tools allow for the analysis of blind spots or protected areas within the local terrain. In the path profile tool, line of sight is used to determine visual clearance from one point to another. By enabling the Path Profile tool from the Analysis Toolbar and creating a profile view with a right-click and left-click, users can view a cross-section of terrain along a specific line. 

From a cross-section view along the terrain setup, the Line of Sight tool works from left to right to determine any areas of the terrain blocking a sightline.

Based on the cross-sectional view created with the Path Profile tool, the line of sight is analyzed along this corridor.

The Viewshed analysis process is based on the same principle,but it applies it to a swept area around one or more points of origin. Using existing point features or entered coordinate locations, viewsheds can be calculated separately or using the same parameters. The use of multiple viewsheds throughout an area can clearly differentiate hidden and visible areas based on specific outlook points. With the default semi-translucent style for viewshed areas, it is easy to see where they overlap. 
Using the Count Overlapping Layers tool with multiple generated viewshed outputs, a new raster layer is created, clearly showing how visible an area is based on the completed viewshed analysis. 

Multiple view sheds are created, each determining visibility from a specified lookout point. These layers are then counted to determine the overall visibility for a region.

The advanced settings in the viewshed tool can be used for other types of analysis, such as radio transmission coverage. Taking into account 3D vector features representing trees, buildings, and other structures, viewshed analysis can also be used to determine clearance for aircraft.

Slope Analysis

While elevation is the primary component of terrain data and analysis, other characteristics can be derived from an elevation model. Slope and slope face directions are easily visualized in Global Mapper using the built-in shader options. 

To identify areas of steep terrain that may cause transportation and logistical issues, or flatter areas suitable for landing aircraft, the Raster Reclassification tool can be used in conjunction with the Slope Shader to identify areas with slopes between specific thresholds. Reclassifying a terrain layer based on slope value threshold for extremely high and low slopes while removing all data in between results in a raster image layer identifying these key regions. This generated raster image describing slope grades can also be overlaid with generated viewshed layers to show the visibility of these areas. 

The slope shader shows a gradient from low to high slopes for a terrain surface. When reclassified, these slopes are discretely classified based on user-entered parameters.

Using the Create Areas From Equal Values tool, the raster image describing the slope can be extracted to vector features. Creating vector versions of this slope classification allows for the removal of small areas and the addition of informational attributes within the data. 

Combining Data and Exporting

Data layers of various types can be combined and exported, after having brought them together for viewing and analysis in Global Mapper. Terrain and raster image layers can be combined into a single vector mesh for use in simulation and engineering applications. 

In Global Mapper, a mesh feature can be shown as a wireframe or a textured object.

Individually created or edited layers can be exported to a plethora of supported formats. Data layers of different types can be packaged together for sharing in various formats, including Geospatial PDF. For field deployment of data, layers can be combined into a single Global Mapper Mobile Package file and shared with users of the Global Mapper Mobile app for data viewing and collection in the field. 

Even with the technology available, hard copy, printed maps are a reliable option on which many teams still depend. The Map Layout Editor assists in creating maps of specific sizes and scales, that include any needed metadata and images, for print or export to PDF format. 

With all the tools offered in Global Mapper and the interoperability of the program with many file formats and data types, advanced analysis can be completed in order to prepare and train teams for operations in the field.


Global Mapper, in conjunction with the Global Mapper Pro, provides an innovative way for professionals involved in industries like architecture, engineering, construction, and many more to perform spatial queries and planning for a variety of use cases.

Want to try Global Mapper? Sign up for a 14-day free trial. You can also request a demo from one of our experts to see this workflow or other Global Mapper processing abilities.

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