Getting Started

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Overview

This is a tutorial to help you go from "Zero to Hero" (or perhaps zero to competent user?) on ATAK-Civ. ATAK is a very powerful, enterprise-quality collaborative geospatial situational awareness (SA) tool. That is, it helps you get around like any mapping tool (e.g. Google Maps), but it has a tremendous amount of additional functionality and it is very extensible, though most of the plugins developed either at Government expense or for Government use, are not released to the public. ATAK is much more powerful and easier to use when used in conjunction with a server. See Server options below.

Time Expectation

If you have a device configured with ATAK already, it takes about fifteen minutes to get the basics squared away. If you are coming into this fresh, it may take you several hours to configure a device.

What Device Can I Use?

Current versions of ATAK run only on devices with a 64-bit ARM processor and relatively recent versions of the Android operating system. If you are running an Android OS version before 6.0, the Play Store version isn't going to work for you.

Getting ATAK

Three Ways To Get ATAK-Civ

Requirements

To Run the current version of ATAK, you need an Android device running a recent 64 bit operating system. Think 5.1 or above. Some cheap Android phones have 64 bit cores but a 32 bit operating system. If you are using a "mainstream device" that's less than four years old, you should be OK.

Sources

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. 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 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.
  • From CivTAK.org. 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).

An Initial Walkthrough and Familiarization

This section will give you an initial walk through and familiarizaiton with ATAK-Civ.

This section assumes you have:

  • ATAK-Civ as a standalone device (not connected to anyone else), with internet access.
  • No underlying elevation information SRTM or DTED).
  • No Custom imagery (you will have a few basic sources.

This video covers the basic screen navigation, including the call sign, user location, elevation, speed, and GPS/location accuracy, map scale, map orientation, basic 3D operation, lock on self & self marker, back button operation (Partial), landscape/portrait mode, button, Red X tool. It also briefly describes, bloodhound tool measuring tools, route tools, media player, chat functions, point dropper (7,000 icons, and expandable), GoTo Tool, Layout Manager, maps and map sources, drawing tools, quick nav.



Here's a video from Team Connect giving a basic overview as well.


Getting Imagery

There are several fundamental ways to "Get Imagery".

  • Streaming Imagery. When you select a map source, you will automatically download imagery for the viewed area of the appropriate resolution from that map source on the network.
  • Downloaded Imagery. In addition to downloading imagery 'on the fly', it is also possible to package imagery for offline use, or to load previously download/packaged imagery for use. Imagery for off-line use are placed in the atak/imagery directory on your phone (or a subdirectory of atak/imagery if you would like to better organize your data). They can be in the atak/imagery of either the internal memory, the SD card or even an external device with the atak/imagery directory.

Here's a video from the Government showing how to interact with the maps interface. This video has narration and is a bit more in-depth than the next video from Par, which has no narration. It also shows in depth how to download imagery from existing Map Sources:

Here's a video from Par Government showing how that imagery loading works. (This video is for a previous version of ATAK, and is slightly out of date):

For modern devices with lots of storage and places you know you will be going to frequently, best practice is to download your imagery ahead of time while you have WiFi, so that the data is immediately available and you don't use the data or power necessary to download imagery. The trade-off is that you may not need all the ata you download ahead of time.

Additional Map Sources

In addition to the map sources provided with ATAK-Civ, there are many other map sources on the internet. The Public Mapsources page provides a list to numerous map sources you may want to add. You can import these using the Import Manager or by adding them to the atak/imagery/mapsources directory.

Getting Elevation Data

Elevation data comes in various resolutions. The coarsest resolution is "DTED 0", which consists of 300 meter "resolution" elevation. For more information on elevation data, see the SRTM CivTAK wiki entry.

  • Download. Download the DTED 0 for the world DTED 0.
  • Import. Import that data using the "Import Manager tool. When the opportunity presents itself, choose "Zipped DTED Directories". You should now be able to see that you have elevation information information "under" the imagery.

This will give you the basic elevation information in ATAK-Civ for everyday use. However, it is possible to download higher resolution elevation information for finer-grained information. You can find additional information on that in the SRTM entry, including details on how to download higher resolution elevation information (1 arc-second), and some existing 1-arc second elevation information (mostly for the United States and Canada).

Setting Up Team Collaboration

The Basics -- Working Over WiFi

Two devices connected to typical home WiFi should be able to see one another on the map and communicate with one another out of the box if they have GPS positions. Each device will appear to the other devices in the network as an aqua dot on the map at their respective geolocations.

Note that hotel and cafe WiFi are generally configured to not allow one another to communicate.

Getting Cellular and Mixed Networks Communicating

  • Communication and visibility. Phones on cellular networks can't see one another without a server of one sort or another can't communicate. This is not a TAK issue, but an issue with the way cellular systems are configured.

To communicate with a TAK Server of some sort (either TAKServer or FreeTAKServer), you need a TAK Server setup, and you need the credentials to be on that Server.

The easiest way to connect to a TAKServer is to load a certificate for a TAKServer using the "Import Manager".

You can find a list of community TAKServers here. You can configure the servers manually (in most cases) or you can download the configuration file to connect to the server. All servers also have information to manually configure as well.

Communicating Over Cellular/Mixed Networks Without a Server

You can also setup your devices to communicate with one another without a server by leveraging a virtual private network (VPN). There is a Dummies' Guide to walk you through how to connect devices using the VPN provider ZeroTier. You can read about how to do that on the ZeroTAK page.

ATAK Usage Basics -- Video Links

Now that you have your device setup and you are connected to your team, lets dive more into the details of how to use the intermediate capabilities of ATAK-Civ.

Here are a list of topics for which you can find videos to help you get started with them. You will also find a lot of help in the ATAK Manual. Please do yourself a favor and look at the manual while you watch the videos and try these techniques. It will help.

These are ordered by the priority that you should learn each topic. There are multiple videos that cover each topic. The videos at the top of each topic are generally considered most useful for each topic, but there's a lot of overlap on the videos.

The Most Basics

Maps & Favorites

Overlay Manager

Point Dropper

Route Tool

Data Packages

Track History

Layout Manager (Tool Icons)

Elevation Tools

Drawing Tools

Various Tools

Need

  • Import Manager
  • Rubber Sheet
  • TakGeoCam
  • ZeroTAKServer video (Todo?)


-- File sharing

- Getting up to speed with a server -- Connecting to a TAKServer (NOT Setting up one that's not possible right now) -- Connecting to someone's FreeTAKServer -- Setting up a FreeTAKServer -- Setting up an GoATAK Server

-- Setting up a Tor onion router for additional anonymity