Frequently Asked Questions
*NOTE: If you have questions you'd like answered, please add them at the bottom of the page and we'll see if we can answer them. ***
- 1 Is There a 'Getting Started' Tutorial?
- 2 Where Can I get the Latest Version
- 3 What Are the System Requirements?
- 4 What Versions a/Flavors are there?
- 5 How do I Install CivTAK?
- 6 What is Good CivTAK for?
- 7 Where's the Official Government Site?
- 8 Where can I Find Documentation?
- 9 How do I Connect Devices
- 10 Where can I get Imagery
- 11 How Do I import Image Sources?
- 12 How do I Create Custom Maps?
- 13 Where Can I Get Elevation Models (e.g. DTED)
- 14 Where can I get 3D terrain models
- 15 How do I import 3D models?
- 16 How do I import Imagery from My Drone?
- 17 Where can I get Plugins?
- 18 How do I Install Plugins?
- 19 How Well Does it Scale?
- 20 This is Government Software. Does the Government Track Me?
Is There a 'Getting Started' Tutorial?
Yes, go to Getting Started which will be a big help.
Where Can I get the Latest Version
You can download ATAK, both Mil and Civ from many sources on the web. Many of those sources have malware installed on them. We recommend in the strongest possible terms that you DO NOT INSTALL ATAK FROM UNKNOWN SOURCES.
Below are three soucrces that are trusted:
- From the Google Play Store. (Best for United States users). The first--and best--way is to download it from the Google Play Store, here. this will give you automatic updates (about three minor updates per year with modest feature additions) and more frequent bug fixes. Note that there are several plugins available for ATAK which are not included in the ATAK Play Store entry. This is because there is a fairly restrictive app size limitation, and Google policy forbids including APKs within other APKs. Currently, ATAK-Civ is only available from the United States Play Store.
- From CivTAK.org. Best for International users). As an alternative to the first two approaches, you can download ATAK-Civ here. This web site is not IP restricted, but it is not automatically updated. It is not authoritative, but it is a copy of the version on the web site. It is also not guaranteed to be the most recent version of the software (though we will do our best).
- From the Official Web Site. The second best way is to download the current version of ATAK-Civ from the Government-led TAK Product Center. You will find ATAK-Civ on the main page of their web site, TAKMaps.com. This will provide you with the plugins not available from the Play Store. However, download from the website will not provide you with automatic updates. Additionally, the official website is currently restricted to United States IP addresses. The link above is to the web site, not the actual APK, because it is impossible to directly link to the web site and this way you know you got it from an official source.
What Are the System Requirements?
- Android OS 5.1 or higher
- 64 bit version of the Operating System
- About 200 MB of storage, plus maps
- Network Connectivity if you want to do anything interesting with other people
What Versions a/Flavors are there?
If you are a civilian, you probalby want the Play store version. See the section on downloading ATAK for that.
There are however, several other versions.
See TAK Products for a list of products -- most of which are not publicly available.
How do I Install CivTAK?
[Directions to go here}
What is Good CivTAK for?
Its good at understanding the geography around you, and coordinating with others over geography. Its easy to use for what it does, but its an enterprise quality, high end tool that does most of what you need in a mobile collaborative mapping application, and there's a plugin architecture so developers can add to it.
Because it is enterprise quality, and scales to tens of thousands of simultaneous users, First Responders like Firefighters, Law Enforcement and Security teams like to use it to coordinate their teams.
- Collaboration. With a Network setup, (A simple no-server configuration called ZeroTAK is available for this. This is really the biggest, best case for using CivTAK. Its possible to do this with Google Maps, but CivTAK is far, far, more capable than any competing tool. its a comprehensive mapping and geographical mapping package on your phone/table. There are Licensees who run TAKServers, but they aren't generally available yet.
- Hiking. If you are going on a long hike, download your maps/imagery ahead of time, map out your route on your phone or google maps with the Route Manager, and as long as you have power and a good phone, you are good to go.
- Route & Distance Tracking. CivTAK automatically creates a track of your travels, which can be exported as GPX or KML to other applications.
- Off-Road Navigation. A more general case of Hiking.
- Marking landmarks. Its great at keeping track of multiple landmarks on your phone. The landmarks are persistent, that is they stay on the app when you close the app or restart you phone. There are a wide variety of icons/markers and you can import your own icons It is also good at marking lines, measuring things and understanding geography.
- Importing Custom Maps. Its possible to import photos of maps and overlay them directly on the existing imagery you have using Rubber Sheet tool. Its fairly simple to do that and once imported, you can turn them on or off and change the transparency, so you can see both the imported photo and the underlying map/imagery simultaneously.
- Chat Tool. There are better chat tools, but it has chat integrated with the tool, and the ability to tap on someone's position ("dot") to call/text.
Municipal and Corporate Uses
- Collaboration. This is the thing that CivTAK excels at. Its used by Federal, State and local governments, companies and not-for-profits for real-time collaboration on the move.
Here are some ways people have used it:
- Planning Hiking Trips & Hiking. Its been used for a week hike with everything off-grid. When added to an off-grid communications solution like Beartooth [SomeWear]or goTenna, you can still track your team-mates in real time.
- Capturing GIS information to share.
- Tracking/Recording. Its been used to track those trips and export the results when returning home. It is particularly useful when elevation data is added and Elevation Tools are used, because then it shows the route taken as well as the elevation gain/loss.
- Mobile GIS. Its been used for an Eagle Scout Project to collect information on local tree species for the city's planning. It is particularly useful for creating a team of users, because you can share a set of maps, imagery, overlays and points of interest, so that everyone is working from the same set of information.
- Snowmobiling. Its used to track friends off road on snowmobiling trails.
Higher Capacity (Governmental) Examples
- Its been used to track security at the 2017 Presidential inauguration and the 2020 Superbowl.
- Its been used by US forces to coordinate Iraqi forces in 2014.
- The National Guard has used it for Hurricane Relief
- Many, Many more.
Where's the Official Government Site?
The Official Government site which is only accessible to First Responders and Government Employees, is here.
Where can I Find Documentation?
The CivTAK 4.0 Manual is here.
How do I Connect Devices
ATAK supports two basic methods for connecting to other devices -- peer to peer via UDP multicast and server-based unicast.
There are many ways to connect multiple devices running ATAK using those two methods. Here are four- a flat network (e.g. the same wifi channel or a flat tactical radio system, such as Persistent Systems and Sylvus radios, ZeroTAKServer, using ZeroTier, TAKServer and FreeTAKServer. Servers generally have the ability to keep track of everything that goes on in the server in a configurable manner.
In addition, there are several systems that leverage special purpose hardware, such as BearTooth, goTenna and SomeWear, all of which support off-grid communications.
It is possible to build hybrid networks among these components to provide the benefits of each system.
What is TAKServer
ATAK can communicate either via point-to-all communication (UDP) or point to point communications (TCP). The point-to-point communications can be secured with TLS.
TAKServer is a server that coordinates the point to point security and optionally provides security.
There are several other server options available, but they are more niche.
Where Can I get TAKServer?
Unfortunately, you can't just download TAKServer right now.
However, you can License TAKServer by going here.
What is FreeTAKServer?
FreeTAKServer (FTS) is an open source implementation of a server for TAK that is developed independently from the Government. As of now, it supports message passing, mission packages, emergency messages, and geofences among other things. However,it does not currently support TAK-based certs for security. However, it is possible to use a VPN to provide security to the FTS, and some users have run FTS using TOR.
There are instructions on how to connect to a public FTS on the FreeTAKServer page.
What is ZeroTAK?
This allows a small number of users to share information in an all-to-all manner without a server.
You can find a tutorial for configuring your phones with the ZeroTAK tutorial.
For small networks of users, ZeroTAKServer meets most needs.
What's the Difference between ZeroTAK and TAKServer
ZeroTAK isn't really a server. Its actually a way to configure the network so that all the phones are on the same subnet, so that they can send all to all messages to each other.
Are There any Public Servers?
Where can I get Imagery
You need "MapSources" files for this. You might check the Public Mapsources page. However, if you create or use a Map Source that relies on a that hasn't given permission, you may be violating the company's terms of service.
And we aren't lawyer, and especially we aren't YOUR lawyers, so don't don't have advice on what's acceptable use, but don't use map sources that violate company's terms of service.
How Do I import Image Sources?
This is pretty challenging. If you really need a FAQ, you are not ready to create your own image source.
How do I Create Custom Maps?
Where Can I Get Elevation Models (e.g. DTED)
Where can I get 3D terrain models
You can either download public models or make your own with your drone.
How do I import 3D models?
How do I import Imagery from My Drone?
Where can I get Plugins?
Right now you need to be a First Responder and have a registered, approved account at TAKMAPS. They are not publicly available.
How do I Install Plugins?
No answer yet.
How Well Does it Scale?
With proper server administration, TAK has been used for critical, real-time operations with tens of thousands of users. It hasn't shown any upper bounds.
This is Government Software. Does the Government Track Me?
No. There are no trackers in any of the software that allows anyone to track you unless you configure it to do so. Even then, the who system is decentralized to the extent that you don't use a government server to do anything. People run their own servers and that allows them to be in control of their data to the extent that they choose what servers to connect to. For instance, if you setup your own ZeroTAK the only people who know anything about your business are those you have on your server and ZeroTier, which has nothing to do with the Government.