Introduction to the Team Awareness Kit

TAK logo Many fires and public safety incidents in Colorado and other western states occur far from cities and permanently populated areas. Voice communication is typically available to firefighters in these backcountry areas through land mobile radios or satellite phones. However, Internet connectivity is frequently unavailable to firefighters in the backcountry or during large disasters that disrupt communications infrastructure in populated areas. The CoE is working to provide map-based situational awareness to firefighters and other first responders when traditional Internet access is unavailable or unreliable.

Much of the CoE’s work in this area has focused on the Team Awareness Kit (TAK) (https://takmaps.com/). TAK is a geospatial mapping engine, originally developed for the Android operating system, that facilitates situational awareness, navigation, and data sharing. Firefighter locations viewed in ATAKTAK can function as a stand-alone situational awareness tool or can be incorporated into various tactical and commercial data networks. TAK is under continuous development as a Program of Record by the U.S. Special Operations Command and partner government laboratories, including the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. TAK employs a “government off-the-shelf” model, which stipulates that any new features developed for TAK be provided back to the government, thus ensuring that all government TAK users have free access to the software.

Crew using ATAKThe CoE is utilizing TAK with a cloud-based server when Internet connectivity is available and is evaluating commercially available radios and deployable networks that enable the TAK app to function without a full Internet connection. When disconnected from the Internet, TAK can either transmit basic data (such as position reports) directly between radios, or utilize a small server physically deployed at the incident to relay maps and more complex data. The CoE has deployed TAK at public safety incidents in Colorado, as well as with Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control fire crews, to gain an operational perspective on the system.

The CoE’s goal is to facilitate the utilization of a system that will enable first responders to reliably transmit location information, collaboratively map an incident, and access other tools that enable them to be safe, effective, and efficient in their operations, even if traditional Internet connections are degraded or absent. The CoE will provide information on progress toward this goal as it becomes available.

TAK Deployment Reports

 2019 Deployment Reports

Video summary of 2019 TAK deployments for search and rescue:

Video summary of a TAK deployment in 2019 for night aerial firefighting with the DFPC Canon City Helitack crew:

2018 Deployment Reports

 Video on 2018 TAK deployments at Country Jam and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival:

Building on TAK


TAK features a plugin architecture, which allows developers to add functions and integrate other systems with TAK by writing a software plugin, rather than rewriting the whole TAK app. This flexible approach also allows TAK users to load only the plugins that they are interested in, while maintaining interoperability with other TAK users for core functions such as location tracking and chat.

One TAK plugin utilized by the CoE is the UAS Tool, which integrates small UAS into the TAK common operating picture.



Data on the elevation of terrain can be loaded into the TAK apps, and can be used to calculate the elevation of points or the gain/loss incurred while travelling along a line or route. TAK also can display a heatmap of elevation, with low areas colored blue and high areas colored red. The CoE built on this heatmap tool by creating a low-tech sandtable consisting of a sandbox and wide-angle projector. The projector is connected to a phone running ATAK or computer running WinTAK, and using the heatmap tool the sand terrain is reshaped to match the area viewed in TAK. This sandtable can assist first responders in gauging the terrain as they use TAK to train or plan a mission, and can display a mission in real-time for improved situational awareness by incident managers.