How do you monitor a forest? This is especially useful in areas where deforestation is rampant.

Lets ask our next pathbreaker Suresh, about his experience with Lidar Sensor Drones in maping forest floors in Indonesia.

Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal talks to Suresh about his journey in this fascinating career! 

Suresh, please tell us about yourself

Iam from Tamilnadu, and did my schooling in matriculation. I had taken up biology after 10th std. After 12th, i had decided to do engineering. During counselling, i was given a book about all the different engineering programs. As i wanted to do something different, i was looking at areas such as Plastic Engineering, Geo-Informatics etc.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

I found the name “Geo-Informatics” very different. So i started searching the net for information on Geo-Informatics. Reading through some information i could see that there was a lot of scope for this career and so i decided to take it up.

What did you study?

Anna University was offering Geo-Informatics in its Chennai and Tirunelvelli branch. With my cut-off in the engineering entrance exam i got admission at the Tirunelvelli branch.

We learnt a lot of things related to Geology, Surveying, Remote Sensing, Drones and Real-Time Lidar Photogrammetry.

We had a professor, Karuppusamy sir, who had earlier taught Geo-Informatics in Germany and he inspired us a lot by providing lots of exposure to Geo-Informatics.

Not only did we study theory but also learnt to apply the concepts through real projects

Can you tell us about the projects you did?

My first project was on the Manimuthar dam where we used Total Station to measure sloping terrain of the dam and other topographic features to detect potential disaster zones.

My next project was working in the Driver’s colony to identify areas of water logging. We used Total Station and CARTOSAT data to analyze flow direction of water, waterlogging and potential areas for rainwater harvesting.

The third project involved 3D modeling of our college building and creating a digital model using Total station with the help of Sketch up software

How did you get your first break?

After graduation, I was looking around for jobs and applied to several jobs online. After some effort, I got a job as a Lidar Engineer at Layer Informatics Pvt Ltd.

In my role, I was involved in mapping and extracting features in cities, and identifying real ground in dense forest areas and hills using LIDAR technology.

In the A9 corridor project, we had to restore the ground and road edges ,then classify all the bridges, road features like vehicle resistance, signs and signals, cars and other moving objects in Airborne Lidar. 

I was also involved in a Power Grid project in Kerala where we had to use remote sensing to detect sagging Power wires to rectify damage. We classified ground, buildings, manmade objects and power lines like primary wires, secondary wires, guy wires, Span wire transmission conductors X,Y,Z and towers and mapped all kind of roads.

In several projects, we used DTM (Digital Terrain Models) for watershed, hills and forest areas and DSM (Digital Surface Models) for city development to create 3D models of the terrains, slopes, building height and extract several features from the model to map to the real data on the ground.

I also work in photogrammetry, this is one kind of traditional survey method.  In this method, we collect series of airborne images. After some processing we can do a 3D visualization of the stereo image pairs (60 per front overlap and 30 per side overlap)  with the help of stereoscopic glasses. Once you wear the stereoscopic glasses you can visualize  the entire city in 3D. Its very interesting and joyful work. With the help of Photogrammetry software we capture all planimetric features like buildings, wall, fence, lamp post, signboard etc. .

Tell us about your career path. What do you do currently?

I worked as a Lidar Engineer for 3 years. At that point i wanted to expand my horizons and learn something new. Thats when i got an opportunity at a company working on Drones. I work as Lidar Data Analyst at Terra Drone India.

At Terra Drone, we use drones to collect data and we then analyze that data. We typically start with a mission plan. The drone captures several overlapping images as it flies. After receiving the data, we geotag the data to identify its location in the real world. The next step is to merge all the different images into a single image with the Advanced photogrammetry technology which would be a replica of the area that the drone flew over.

Tell us about an interesting work you did

We had to work with the state government to give them details about land used by farmers for growing sugarcane. Since sugarcane consumes a lot of water, the farmers pay water tax for growing sugarcane. The government wanted to know the actual hectares of land used for growing sugarcane.

We used drones to capture images across huge tracts of land, divided them into smaller tracts based on ownership and were able to extract unique features associated with sugarcane from those lands and hand over the data to the government. In order to test the accuracy of our model we would travel to the site and verify if the lands that were tagged as sugarcane lands matched with the lands where sugarcane was being planted. We also produced the DTM ,DSM ,contour RGB drone data. Now we have developed a Lidar Sensor Drone. Why do we need Lidar Sensor Drones? In dense forest areas we can’t get the exact ground points from RGB drone data (cameras that capture Red, Green, and Blue light). So we go for Lidar. Basically a Lidar pulse is sent out of a transmitter and returns back to the sensors, some at upto 150000 pulses per second. It penetrates the gaps in leaves, reaches the ground and returns back to the receiver. So we can create the Digital terrain model with more accuracy in centimeters. We have successfully operated a UAV Lidar sensor for a dense forest area in Indonesia 

How is your typical day at work? What do you love about your job?

UAV is a very interesting and loveable job , because its related to the real world problems and solutions like Aerial surveying, Flood monitoring, Agricultural Solutions, Urban development , Highway development, Railways, Power line inspection and many more sectors. Since its related to the real world its joyful, interesting and challenging.

What skills are needed for this job?

If you are in GIS background means that skill is sufficient for job,

If you are not in the GIS field you need to learn some basic things in GIS, Remote sensing and LIDAR.

Apart from that, if you learn python, it will help a lot in in your career.

Your advice to students?

My advice to students is listen to your own heart, work hard and follow your passion. One day it will all happen because everything is in your hands. In Drones, GIS and Lidar there are more opportunities in the future. But you need to be patient and keep updating yourself.

Your future plans?

I want to live a happy and peaceful life. Professionally i need to do more R&D work in Geospatial industry . I want to update myself and work hard in geospatial sector.