Geocent was invited to participate in the PlugFest event at the AFCEA San Diego C4ISR Symposium in San Diego Calafornia. Each contestant was given a unique, realistic problem written by experienced members of the military. Geocent received the following problem:
The ESG (3 ships south of Japan) is going to be performing an exercise near S. Korea (Op Area). What is the safest route for the ESG to take from their current location to the Op Area? Vessels should avoid threat ranges (OOB Threats) and Submarine Op Areas (Sub_Havens). Bonus: At any given time during the transit, what is the closest threat to the ESG?
The contest was designed to see if participants could develop a solution in an extremely short period of time, approximately 2 days.
Our solution combined automatic path routing via the A* Search algorithm with overlayed data for local weather events. The path finding algorithm used the submarine hazard zones provided, and queried the Google Elevation service to route around land masses (while not currently implemented, this solution could easily take a minimum draft depth for a ship and route around areas that are too shallow). Additionally, clicking on any node in the path will tell you the exact distance (currently in degrees) from the nearest point of the nearest hazard.
The overlayed weather data was provided by NOAA, and is shown merely as an example of how easy it is to add map layers, assuming the layers are available. Most of the weather data NOAA provided was about hazardous weather events (extremely high winds, tornadoes…), none of which were taking place at the time of the demo and were therefore not included. Currently shown is the location of active volcanoes (you never think about them… until they erupt), wind speeds, and tectonic plate boundaries.
Geocent was awarded the “Most Inspirational Demo” category, meaning that our demonstration did the most to change the way they thought about a specific problem (in this case course plotting).
Currently the algorithm only considers ocean depth and submarine hazard zones, while to be truly useful a variety of factors would have to be considered: local weather, local currents and various other hazards. The A* Search algorithm is extremely flexible, and we believe that with a little additional work these factors can be taken into account and provide an extremely good route suggestion to the navigator.