His Coordinates

“Our strengths are quality and accuracy”

Feb 2006 | No Comment

says Maj Gen M Gopal Rao, Surveyor General of India while discussing the vision, status and
direction of Survey of India

What is your vision of Survey of India?

When Survey of India (SoI) had the basic role of meeting Defence needs
of mapping, it fulfi lled this national commitment with fl ying colours.
Defence and Security agencies primarily depend on the topographical
maps in every activity of planning their strategy. SoI has the vision
and mandate to provide reliable and accurate geo spatial data to the stake
holders, at affordable costs, keeping the national security in consideration.
SoI has a very proactive role in the planned development, in building a
modern India. The National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) mandates
SoI to take a leadership role in providing spatial data and solutions
to the stake holders and SoI is equipped to meet these challenges.

There had been discussions on Restructuring of SoI. What is the status now?

Yes. Restructuring of SoI, has been an on-going process. In a fast changing
technological world, the restructuring cannot be a one time affair. The
need for the spatial data and related solutions is being felt in the effective
and economical developmental planning process. SoI, while meeting
these demands, would also foster the growth of the geospatial industry.
To achieve these objectives, SoI will have to continuously adopt change
in its approach while addressing these issues. The present exercise
has been done taking a holistic approach, involving adopting of new
technologies, change in work process, human resource development and skill
set upgradation. This is a continuous process. The immediate proposal is
already in advanced stage of approval.

The idea of NSDI started in 2001. Where it is now?

We have come a long way in formulating the concept of NSDI.
Considering the requirements to make it a reality, we have achieved quite
a bit in a short time. Very fact that major participating stake holders have
been able to sit together and discuss the issues in a common platform,
is in itself a great achievement. Many government agencies have
come forward and committed their resources and information, to the
NSDI domain. It is the industry, which is not coming up with the anticipated
response. Probably, industry finds the concept of NSDI as a danger
to their individual agenda/ interest/monopoly. However, I feel, industry
has a very important role in the long term become benefi ciaries of NSDI.

Department of Space was absent in Hyderabad NSDI workshop. Comment?

All have certain commitments. May be that is the reason, they
could not participate in the last workshop. Space has been playing
a very important role in formulation of NSDI and I am sure they will
continue to do so in future also.

Are you addressing the criticisms voiced about national map policy?

Criticisms help in formulating policies and taking corrective measures as
we move forward. Realising the importance of the spatial data for
planning, National Map Policy (NMP), has been formulated. The role
of the SoI, in development planning has been identifi ed and acknowledged,
in greater detail, in the NMP. This will certainly help in building a nationally
connected common framework, which will have consistency. This
is bare minimum necessity, in the context of NSDI. The SoI, as the
framework spatial data provider, can facilitate, quick growth of the
Geospatial industry, for value addition and providing solutions. Strength of
the SoI is the faith the users repose on the quality and accuracy of the
information provided by it. With the increased use of spatial data, in
the day to day activities of common man, the role and importance of the
SoI, will naturally be enhanced. We are quite comfortable with it
and will work with greater vigor.

When will the fi rst OSM be available to the public?

The guidelines for implementation of NMP and bringing out Open Series
Maps has been just approved, and is in the offi cial website. Data is ready
for providing to the users. We are in the process of updating the framework
spatial data. Already existing data in digital form is being provided to
many users. Hard copy maps will be brought out shortly, may be, the maps
will start rolling from the press before end of February. The fi rst OSM has
already been released last month.

Should we have a separate GPS Policy? What are the restrictions in the use of GPS?

As I understand there are more than 6 lakhs GPS of various categories
available in the country. They vary in accuracy standards from millimeters
to meters. At this stage, to impose restriction on their usage will not serve
any purpose. However the government should monitor the various users who
are procuring precise GPS receivers that are to be used in sensitive
locations/areas . To my knowledge at present there are no restrictions
for usage of GPS in this country.

Wireless Advisor to the Govt of India mentioned the need of operating license
for GPS*. Comments.

There is an instruction or law that a license is required for using any
instrument that uses radio frequency. However, as regards GPS, we
understand that for procuring GPS there is no license required.
But for GPS like RTK (Real Time Kinematic) GPS which uses UHF
frequency through a modem, a license is needed for its use.
However in general, the law has not been enforced, though it exists on
paper. [* Coordinates, July 05]

What is the status of Redefinition of Indian Geodetic Datum?

The present Indian Geodetic Datum, which is based on
locally best fitting ellipsoid, ie., Everest, is being transformed
to a geocentric reference frame, based on WGS 84 ellipsoid.
There are three different ways in which you can do this:
(a) One can use the transformation parameters, ie., from Everest to WGS-84.
(b) Transformation from Ellipsoid to Ellipsoid after readjusting the Indian Datum.
(c) To come up with a newly observed coordinate system in Geocentric frame.
As regards approach (a), we have already computed the transformation
parameters which we are already using for transforming existing
topographical maps to Open Series Maps based on WGS-84.
For approach (b) the adjustment of Geodetic network, in Everest Datum,
have been completed in two dimensions. We are planning to add some more
accurate GPS bases, before transforming them to Geocentric Coordinate
System, something similar to Northern American Datum 27 to Northern
American Datum 83 coordinate as done in the United States of America.
As regards approach (c) SoI has plans already to set up a GCP library
with 300 precise control points with monuments and fencing etc, and 2200
points as secondary points. These control points will be provided in
TRF reference frame, so that future satellite missions are also taken into
account. However, this approach will take considerable time for adoption.

What about a fresh vertical datum defi nition for India?

New initiatives have been taken for redefining our vertical datum. The
heights will be based on geopotential number and Helmert Orthometric
Heights. The first stage includes 40 thousands linear km of fresh
leveling( fore and back). The project has already begun with the fi rst line
from Kolkata to Malda leveling work already in progress. We have
already procured 30 Digital levels and also plan to outsource the work to
engineering students to complete the job in time. We are aiming to complete
this gigantic task by Dec 2007.

Your plans for establishing Absolute Gravity Datum?

The SoI is in the process of procuring a FG5 Absolute Gravimeter for
setting up absolute base stations. Five numbers of CG5 Relative Gravimeters
with microgal accuracies, have been procured for densifying the gravity
network. Joint projects with National Geophysical Research Institute
(NGRI) have also been initiated so that the FG5 available with them
can also be used immediately for observing at the gravity base stations.
In addition, SoI is also on the verge of developing higher resolution
gravimetric geoid model which can provide geoid undulation at +/- 10cms.

What are the latest activities in SoI you would like to share with us?

The 1:50,000 scale reference frame is being updated on priority.
We are also establishing globally referenced national reference frame
by densifying the ground control points to make them easily accessible.
Developing a GIS based National Urban Information System is in hand
which will be used for city planning. We are also helping states to develop
a computer based land information system. The NUIS and ILIS projects
require large scale base maps. SoI is adopting 1:10,000 scale as the basic
topographical scale for the entire country to meet these new demands.

How do you see developments like Google Earth?

In this era of information technology and Internet technology, Google Earth
is a thing which had to come. We will be seeing more such innovations
in future. We have to be prepared to face such developments. Information
cannot be denied. The winner will be the one who exploits technology
and information. Let us use this opportunity to grow, by exploiting
the technology and information for the benefi t of the mankind.

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