GPS, Remote Sensing and GIS added as new tools for modern day Geology-Rakesh Vyas

Rakesh Vyas
GIS and Remote Sensing Expert
Geo Planet Solution Pvt. Ltd. (Co-founder)

Q1. Please tell something about your educational and professional journey?

I was born and brought up in Udaipur. I did my schooling there with Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics as Major. After that, Completed my bachelor’s degree with Physics, Maths and Geology subjects. From my early childhood, I had a love affair with earth science and that led me to complete my Master’s degree in Geology in Year 2001. Satellite Remote Sensing was compulsory part of M.Sc. coursework that further inspired me to go for higher studies in Remote sensing and GIS at IIRs, Dehradun in year 2003.
In Early 2004, Joining Birla Institute of Technology, Extn. Centre (Jaipur) was first major turning point of my professional journey. Working in Birla institute as research scientist has metamorphosed me into a seasoned professional. There I got opportunities to work on various inter-disciplinary subjects such as climate change and glaciology, landuse studies, hydro-geological assessments etc. in year 2008, BIT deputed me in Department of IT&C, govt of Rajasthan as consultant GIS expert. I led a web-GIS project named as Rajasthan Urban Information System (RUIS) as well as developed new GIS projects. Again in 2011, another turning point happened while working on a part-time consultancy work for Gold and associated metals exploration using satellite data. The discovery was successful and I was again inclined to my core subject. I then relocated myself to Africa, worked in many east African countries and had four successful discoveries for gold exploration and one for gem grade ruby. Most of my early exploration work was done using remote sensing and 3D GIS. In 2016, I with my friend Jitendra made a soft start of Geo Planet Solution Pvt. Ltd. www.geoplanetsolution.com which is now grown up as full-fledged company working on the lines of mineral exploration, remote sensing, GIS, hydrology, watershed management and specialized surveys like UAV and LiDAR based imaging and Ground penetrating radar survey.

Q2. You are a Geologist. Why did you select Geology as career?

From my early childhood, the Aravalli rocks and hills surrounding Udaipur city used to woo me. I was always curious about their structures and textures. While applying for my bachelor’s degree course, I had an opportunity to take geology as major subject. This is the only subject that keeps you busy in field as well as in laboratory. On the other hand, its versatile sub-subjects provide opportunity to study minerals, crystals, metals, 3D sub-surface geometry of structures, morphology of landforms and their evaluation process, groundwater that can never let a professional be feeling a monotonous job. Nowadays, GPS, Remote Sensing and GIS added as new tools for modern day geology which makes this subject more attractive and adaptable.

Q3. What is the importance of Remote Sensing and GIS in geology world?

That’s a nice question. Let me share you my experience. With the advent of state of the art very high resolution (VHR) satellite imaging, remote sensing today became a necessary tool in geological investigations. A decade back or so, remote sensing was limited to geological studies of vast regions. That was due to resolution constraint. I remember, I did a project named as Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking water Mission for groundwater potential mapping for whole coastal area of Gujarat state. The mapping scale was 1:50000. Now the availability of modern tools including indigenous satellite data, UAV based natural colour, thermal, microwave and LiDAR imaging provides realistic terrain model with very high-resolution imageries at 1:100 scales that makes a geologist feel as if he is standing in field. Though field-based work is necessary to confirm ground truth information, remote sensing has minimized the tediousness of field-based work, especially in topographically challenged terrains.
Secondly, gone are the days when a geologist used to sit on light tables and used to map information on a paper sheet. GIS along with GPS is now an essential tool for Geologist while working on mineral exploration, groundwater, geomorphology at every stage of projects. It helps in planning of field trips, geochemical sampling and modelling, analysing geophysical data, mapping anomalous areas for further exploration, 3D sub-surface geometrical, geological and geochemical modelling, resource estimation, analysing groundwater quality, mapping groundwater levels. These are just a few examples. The use of GIS technology in geology is more than that.

Q4. How accurate we can produce any output from remote sensing technique?

Accuracy is how much an output is near to the expected. For a beginner, accuracy may be unknowingly compromised at various stage of project. Firstly, there is a need of choosing the scale of the final product and then to choose suitable satellite data. There is a close relation between resolution of remotely sensed data and scale of expected output. A remote sensing project always demand for designing accuracy standards before kick-start of project. There are well defined methods of accuracy assessments at different stages. For example, positional accuracy, elevation accuracy, defining minimum mappable unit, accuracy in interpretation, attribute accuracy etc.
If all these practices are adopted and followed as per desired accuracy standards, remote sensing outputs are highly accurate and effective. And, one should not be confused with precision. Precision is the amount of positional detail presented in the GIS data.

Q5. You are running Geo-consultancy company too. Tell me something about that and your projects?

Well, it was a soft start in December 2016 and has been a nice journey so far. We are working with state and central government agencies as well as for industries. You can classify nature of our work into four – surface, groundwater and watershed management studies, mineral exploration, specialized surveys such as UAV based imaging and ground penetrating radar survey and R&D on GIS integration with SCADA, Machine learning and Artificial intelligence. We have done impact assessment studies for four administrative division of Rajasthan state, a part of Integrated watershed management program of government of India. We are now having talc exploration project in Rajasthan and a gold exploration project in South-Sudan. In addition, we are preparing a proof of concept study using GIS and machine learning for defence agencies. We have mapped underground utilities for more than 400 linear km length in Karnataka. Soon we will start a new project for managing forests in Mizoram.

Q6. You had been worked at abroad for many years. Do you really feel any difference between India and abroad working culture?

Yes, there is a difference. The working environment in India is very competitive. I take it positively. For example, when you are working on a state wide project, you will lead a team of highly skilled professionals. On the other hand, the education system and related facilities are still under-developed. This becomes challenge when you have to lead a team who are not much experienced for the job. I used to adopt a team mix of Indian and African professionals.
Secondly, the language is sometimes constraint in closely working environment. African people are good hearted and prefer Indian leaders to work with, rather than any other national. It has been good experience to work with them.

Q7. Give your best advice to new geology aspirants for career?

I personally believe that the syllabus in most of the universities are not updated with time. New students and professional shall learn and shall stay updated about rapidly changing technology scenario. For example, a newly joined geologist may have to use GPS, satellite data prints, android based GIS or geological app or a hand-held X-ray Florescence instrument during his field trip which was not taught in detail during their master’s coursework.

Q8. What are your hobbies? Do you read any book in free time?

Travelling and knowing new places and cultures, listening 90’s music are my hobbies. Fortunately, my hobbies have a close connection with my work and I often get opportunities to travel to new places.
Yes, I do like to read books in free time. Lockdown due to corona pandemic has given me time and I am reading a booked named ‘Applied Mineral Inventory Estimation’ by Alastair J. Sinclair.