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Umbra Contact
(505) 844-3621


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Application areas and vignettes shown on this page are intended to provide insight for uses of the Umbra Simulation Framework. Umbra’s flexibility and adaptability are reflected in the variety of applications below and may relate to problems you need to solve.

Umbra and existing Umbra-based tools have been applied to generate solutions in a wide variety of problems. Umbra has utility for difficult, complex system-of-system problems that include intersection of physical, cyber, and behavior issues. Because of its roots, Umbra is very capable in mixed fidelity modeling.

Evaluating Technology, Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures

Dante allows exploration and statistical evaluation of Technology and TTPs

A complex set of alternatives exists in the processes of understanding, engineering, implementing, and optimizing security systems that include choices about technology as well as Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs). This type of serious gaming is further complicated by context that is dynamic and involves physical environment, information systems, and human behavior. It is precisely this complex environment that drove development of the Umbra Simulation Framework and applications like Dante and OpShed. A few example problems are:

While real-world live evaluation of performance is necessary, modeling and simulation provides options to explore locations and interactions that do not yet exist, are too expensive, risky, uncertain, or would take too long to create in the real world. This approach provides the opportunity to explore “what-if” situations, experiment thousands of times at low cost to explore sensitivity analysis, reproduce conditions or “un-do” events that are irreversible in the real world, and provide a tangible benchmark representation of ideas or a situation upon which improvements can be made. Linking simulation to the live world through LVC concepts, one can choose the best mix of simultaneous live and simulated activity Many of the example applications on this page embody these types of problems.

To be effective in this environment, Umbra has developed the following qualities:

Cyber-Physical Simulation

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Cyber-Physical Simulation Concepts

OpInsight visualization of controls systems

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Analysis and visualization of dynamic physical-cyber operations have been difficult to achieve, yet is critical for truly understanding system security in the context of operation or mission. Sandia’s strong program in cyber security is leveraging Umbra to provide substance to cyber analysis.

Where other cyber simulation capability exists, Umbra can take advantage of existing work rather than reinvent or port other simulation code. For instance, Umbra has successfully co-simulated details of communication down to the protocol level with another popular package, OpNETTM.

As one solution, Umbra’s ability to simulate physical, cyber, and human behavior elements is being combined with OpInsight, a flexible dynamic transaction event visualization tool built upon Umbra. Dynamic visualization allows analysts to understand operational relevance and detect patterns in behavior displayed at rates faster, slower, or equal to real time. OpInsight is available to other applications and projects that are using Umbra. Because OpInsight visualizes dynamic transactions, it is also useful for viewing other interactions, such as social network activity. See more information about OpInsight.






Sensor Layout and Evaluation

OpShed allows real-time 3D display of sensor cover and multi-variate path analysis


Engineering, evaluating, testing, and operating complex sensor systems in various environments, terrains, buildings, and underwater can be a time-intensive task. Results are prone to iterative adjustment after installation because of unforeseen issues. Testing sensor systems, comparing them to design requirements, and undergoing certification and accreditation can also be difficult. Sensors are usually part of a larger system, including communications, physical barriers, delay mechanisms, monitoring forces, and response forces, so understanding system performance can be even more complex. Sensor systems may need to be evaluated for sites that will be modified or cannot be easily accessed.

Because of these and related issues, Sandia applied Umbra to develop analysis and tools for sensor layout, analysis, and operation. These tools have been used to successfully and rapidly address critical issues while efficiently using time and money.

The Operations ViewshedTM (OpShedTM) tool saves time and money, increases certainty of sensor layout in complex environments, and shadows operational sensor systems to ensure robust operation. Combining this with LVC technology, live operators can walk through simulated or real environments to evaluate potential simulated (constructive) sensors before purchase or installation. Live and constructive sensors can be used simultaneously to detect live or constructive targets. Combining this with Dante, many variations can be explored as a tool to optimize design and perform sensitivity analysis. See more information about OpShed.

Any sensor can be modeled and have its performance adjusted based on environment variables. Sandia has a number of existing sensors, including pixilated cameras, seismic, radar, and simple switches (doors, windows, etc.). Other sensor models are easily developed with fidelity sufficient to answer questions from manufacturer’s specifications or existing test data. Models can optionally be developed or validated based on existing sensor data from Sandia’s extensive physical security program and testbed. Sensors can be characterized there or with LVC test range capabilities.

Border Security, Perimeter Security

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Harbor security

Customs inspection using Dante

Metal detector using Umbra

Border and perimeter security are inherently a physical problem, yet security applications always include communication and behavior concerns. Umbra is well suited to this domain, ranging from analysis, system design, and test and evaluation, through operations of indoor and outdoor areas.
The framework can simplify the physical aspects of design and analysis, including interactions of sensors, objects, terrain, and environment. Other features can be modeled, including communication, behavior of security operators and technology, and threats to the border from humans, vehicles, or technology. Dante, an Umbra-based tool, can run hundreds to thousands of simulations to evaluate system performance given variation in tactics, technology, and environment. Umbra integrates with other tools to optimize security design based on threat scenarios and available resources. Upon deployment, the Umbra LVC capability enables simulation alongside real systems to compare performance, detect system anomalies, and help refine simulation fidelity. Umbra can be used to craft training simulators of systems to refine operator performance, or analysis simulations to project performance of the existing system given new, tactical threat projections. Border security needs include the following.

Sandia leverages extensive experience in site and perimeter security for a range of customers in this area. Sandia has existing activity in understanding a wide variety of border crossings including land, ports, and air. Because boarder and perimeter security system can represent significant logistical considerations for sustainment, Umbra can federate with Sandia’s SoSAT tool to understand logistics implications and options.








LVC (Live-Virtual Constructive)

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LVC Testbed - Sensor & Tracking

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LVC Testbed - Autonomous Robotic Convoy


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Complex, dynamic security issues and systems present a difficult set of choices for the military, other government agencies, and industry. LVC option space allows selection of how many real players or assets are utilized versus how many are simulated. Choices can be made to reduce cost, improve safety, and consider security requirements where testing, training, and operations take place.

For instance, the nation’s military and protective forces are currently encountering a number of challenges. The proliferation of new technology outstrips their ability to assess it with respect to Test and Evaluation (T&E), development of Concepts of Operations and TTPs, and training. Change and pace can be overwhelming and may result in wasted time and funding, potential fratricide, and ill-prepared forces or responders. Another challenge is an extremely diverse space of engagement, ranging from urban area, desert, and jungle, to ocean. Operations may occur in new and unique areas, which are generally inaccessible prior to the mission, making planning and training difficult. Other challenges come from ever-increasing limitations on funding and time.

LVC systems strive for the seamless integration of Live assets (real people in real locations using real equipment), Simulated assets (real people in a simulated environment using simulated equipment), and Constructive assets (simulated people in a simulated environment using simulated equipment) in the context of the same scenario, exercise, or operation. Such systems address the challenges listed above—they are attractive training and testing vehicles, largely because they are less expensive and more flexible than live exercises, and their ability to scale in the constructive domain allows them to provide a realistic operational context for new or inaccessible environments.

Complex systems and scenarios often exhibit unexpected behaviors that cannot be predicted a priori using the traditional engineering design process. LVC testing allows designers to explore complex system requirements in depth, discover problems during the design phase, provide more effective training, and monitor system performance throughout operations. LVC is a systems-of-systems analysis tool because it allows one to work with all components of a system and evaluate how it performs as a whole.

T&E (Testing & Evaluation)

T&E is a logical application for Umbra modeling and simulation. The following are a few examples of how Umbra can help T&E.

Complex T&E activities can be planned in advance with Modeling and Simulation to understand how a testbed or range will be utilized. Umbra allows this planning by simulating physical, cyber, and human entities.

Large physical T&E activities can be expensive due to the number of personnel or sets of equipment required at one location. In many cases, it is impractical to collect enough assets in one location to fully exercise a complex scenario. LVC applications allow the test director to select the number of live, virtual, and simulated elements to fit test objectives and budget. Umbra facilitates this type of interaction in real time and Sandia’s evolving LVC methodology can help solve many issues of communication latency and instrumentation needed to pull off an LVC activity.

Large and complex cyber T&E efforts require a breadth of simulation and emulation technologies to bring together desired results. Umbra is an outstanding framework to integrate many of these diverse simulations as well as incorporate essential physical and human behavioral elements. Umbra is used at Sandia for cyber test range activity.

In situations where T&E activity needs to occur in projected or inaccessible locations, Umbra can simulate a remote environment including physical, cyber, and human behavior activity in that location.

Augmented Reality (AR)

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Augmented Reality Training

Augmented Reality allows immersive experiences and analysis mixing real world and simulation

Sandia National Laboratories has developed a state-of-the-art AR training system that is based on Umbra and allows live players to be immersed within a simulation or visualization. As an extreme example of LVC, users and objects in the AR space can be imported into the simulation while the simulation can control objects in the AR space. Users can wear heads-up displays to have full AR experience, or simply manipulate objects in real space that are tracked and co-simulated within computers.

One example of full AR use is a close-quarters combat simulation. This system uses a wearable AR system to place the user in a real environment while engaging enemy combatants in virtual. The enabling technology uses a set of linear optical sensors to track LEDs that are mounted to the helmet and weapon to achieve excellent accuracy and update rates. Users experience intelligent automatic behaviors of the simulated virtual humans (such as crawling on the real floor with good apparent registration), leading to a real sense of their presence. Enemy characters can come from behind virtual walls, doors, and other fixed occluding obstacles. Participants can engage and interact with them.

Another example of AR use allows manipulation of live objects that represent dangerous assets. To provide a training environment for users, object systems and physics are simulated along with other tools and sensors and projected back into the AR space. This approach allows training without the burden of dangerous objects and allows sensitive information to be kept on computer hard disks.







Trainer produced with Umbra

Umbra is a very flexible, responsive, and tactical way to produce trainers for many applications. While it would not make sense to replace existing high-fidelity trainers with Umbra, it is an option for novel systems, areas rich with existing Umbra modules, or systems where Umbra is used for development and design. Because of the ability of Umbra to work with Live-Virtual-Constructive (LVC) systems, it can incorporate live data feeds and real equipment. System interfaces can be the exact type used by actual operators or abstracted as needed. Visualizations can be as realistic as required for the training objectives. Umbra is currently used as the basis for trainers of some national security systems.








Needs for robotics in manufacturing, military, and security systems was the motivation for creating Umbra. Robotic systems must move and navigate in a physical world, communicate, and interact with humans. Sandia’s and other organization’s robotics programs utilize Umbra as a planning tool for modeling and simulating robotic systems, integrating machine vision control, and training operators on the use of robotic systems.

Umbra was created to allow engineers and analysts to break complex system software problems into collections of manageable pieces, or modules that can be tested independently and then efficiently combined into a system. Umbra provides a software framework, base classes, and an interactive script-level interface that facilitates efficient and effective code development, debugging, reuse, experimentation, and deployment. It includes an extensible core set of libraries for efficiently loading, representing, displaying, and analyzing 3D geometries. Umbra is delivered in its developer form with an extensive library of reusable modules and application templates to support a wide variety of applications.

Wireless Ad-hoc Systems

Wireless system design, optimization, and operation can be fairly complex, particularly when the wireless equipment performance depends on terrain, obstacles (such as buildings), and human operator behavior. These influences can be easily simulated with Umbra so that wireless effectiveness can be evaluated and optimized in a wide variety of environments. Simulation allows wireless systems to be evaluated in a larger number of settings to improve confidence in their operations. Simulations shadowing live field exercises or test & evaluation efforts can help validate both simulation and live test range activity. Stochastic capability in Dante or other external tools in concert with Umbra can enhance the collection of performance data from simulations. Co-simulation with other communication and protocol simulations (e.g., OpNETTM) can take advantage of existing investments without duplicating efforts in Umbra.

Umbra has been used in the evaluation of a number of wireless ad-hoc communication activities. Umbra has allowed real communication assets to interact with simulated assets via its Live-Virtual-Constructive (LVC) technology testbed.

Data Visualization

Umbra is routinely used for visualization of information related to 3-space or mission activity; however, it has the ability to visualize abstract data, interact with data as objects, and relate those objects to mission. Umbra’s data visualization is inherently dynamic, but it can easily produce static 3D visualizations. Extension with existing augmented reality capability allows one to be immersed and interact with data. Ability to visualize recorded and live data provides the option of aligning data with real-time mission activity or viewing data faster or slower than real time.

Examples of mission visualization are included throughout this site. Examples of abstract visualization include Sandia’s OpInsight tool, a dynamic transaction event visualizer, which is integrated into Umbra. Umbra applications can export data or federate with other visualization tools, so analysts with existing visualization tools can choose what works for them.

Path Planning

Umbra can use route planners to provide high-level path plans for simulated humans or vehicles. In real environments, routes are planned from various detail terrain models that can include obstacles, such as buildings, or plan routes within buildings. Vehicles or humans then typically use behavior or navigation algorithms to avoid unmodeled obstacles. Umbra’s ability to use multiple data representations allows routes to be planned on low detail and executed on higher detail terrain. This, in turn, provides an ability to validate hierarchical control algorithms.

Typical route planning software uses terrain, coverage, and mobility to find optimal human and vehicle routes between specific goal points through complex terrains. Sandia’s constraint-based route planners add inter-visibility checks with known target positions to find routes that bring vehicles within site of the targets.

Path planning also includes the domain of robotic arm motion planners. Models have been built to evaluate utility of an advanced robotic arm concept on a mobile delivery platform in dexterous manipulation and inspection tasks. The model geometry was exported from IGRIP. Forward kinematics equations, which relate joint values to device motions, were defined through the Umbra geometric scene module. A motion planner, which used a Monte Carlo technique, path smoothing, and UNC’s V-Collide collision detection software was used to generate device motions between major pose positions (e.g., stowed, deployed, and inside window).

The Configuration Space Toolkit (CSTK or C-Space Toolkit) provides a software library that makes it easier to program motion planning, simulation, robotics, and virtual reality codes. The CSTK is included with Umbra distributions. See more in products.

Sandia has developed and continues to develop a spectrum of research and application-supporting path-planning software, ranging from RRT-based planning for robotics, to tactical path planners for supporting a variety of Sandia’s DOE, DoD, and HSD missions. The current generation of optimizing path planners integrated with Umbra employs a highly modular architecture that enables construction of planners for various state spaces and easily applies different cost functions and goal predicates to them.

Applications Not Suitable for Umbra

In choosing a simulation framework, it can be useful to understand where a particular choice may not be viable. Sandia National Laboratories is also sensitive to potential observation or concern that Umbra can do anything. While it is flexible, there are applications that are not suited to Umbra, either because of technical issues or efficiency. These contrary applications are not specific, but depend on the environment and application constraints.
The following are examples in which Umbra may not be suitable:

Umbra also is not a discrete event simulator, where the simulation clock advances arbitrarily to the time of the next event on the event queue. In addition, Umbra drives simulation either strictly by time-step increment, or by event occurrences, or a hybrid of both. However, if a time-stepped simulation engine with event processing capability is required, especially for embodied agent (i.e., heavyweight agent) simulation, Umbra may be a good choice.
Sandia National Laboratories is only interested in helping others apply Umbra where it can have the most benefit. Contact Sandia if you have questions.

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