Interview with Virat Arora
Remote Sensing and GIS Consultant
Geospatial Technology Blogger
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India
Q1. Please share your educational and professional journey with us?
I graduated in Mining Engineering from M. B. M. Engineering College, Jodhpur, in 2009. Subsequently, I went to Mumbai to do MTech. from IIT-Bombay in Natural Resources Engineering. This course introduced me to the world of geospatial technology, and since then, I have been professionally connected to this field. I have worked as a Research Scientist at the National and Regional Remote Sensing Centres of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). I am presently working as a Geospatial Consultant at Rajasthan’s State Remote Sensing Application Centre. Earlier, I worked as a Mining Engineer at Binani Cement Ltd. I am also pursuing PhD in Geo-engineering from Andhra University College of Engineering.
Q2. If you did your engineering in Mining, what attracted you to the Geoinformatics Domain?
I was selected for Larsen & Toubro Ltd. (L&T) through the campus placement drive during the third year of my engineering course. It was the year 2008. But, as I neared completion of the engineering degree in 2009, recession crept in the market and resultantly, L&T delayed new joinings. Meanwhile, I was selected in GATE-09 with an All India Rank 23 in Mining Engineering. It was this time when I came to know about the Geoinformatics field. It has been an ever-emerging field with remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) technologies.
Moreover, it has been an interdisciplinary field meaning that I was eligible for a chance to study in IIT-Bombay. I saw excellent prospects, firstly in learning from one of the world’s premier academic institutions, IIT-Bombay, and secondly, to experience the world of research in remote sensing and GIS, which made my way into this domain.
Q3. How do you motivate yourself every morning?
I genuinely see a lot of work to do around me for good. So, therefore, I just want to work. One can call it a workaholic nature of mine that keeps me motivated. Every morning I get up with some new thing to try for that day. Things that improve my productivity and increase my knowledge.
Q4. What is the role of Remote Sensing and GIS in the digital transformation of India?
Remote sensing and GIS have become parts of a much bigger geospatial industry, and I see a sudden burst in this field within the past five years. Firstly, it is due to the advancement in sensor technology coupled with satellite platforms that have enabled us in acquiring very high spatial resolution images with improved temporal coverage. Further, the onset of Unmanned Aerial Systems or drone technology has given an edge over the satellite platforms in terms of spatial resolution and freedom to survey as and when required. Thirdly, the enhanced computational ability is playing a significant role in handling data-intensive processes. Cloud computing abilities are adding more freedom to that. Applications are getting built on top of data collections, more or less automating the workflow.
Moreover, our policymakers understand their role in clearing out the administrative hurdles. Recently, in 2021, the Government of India has come up with the National Geospatial Policy and Drone Rules that have eased out the earlier restrictions obstructing this sector’s growth. All this is bound to lead India’s digital transformation journey.
Q5. What is your Thesis topic in your PhD? Please share some brief information about it?
The topic of my PhD thesis is related to the geospatial mapping of riverine sand resources. Under the guidance of my supervisors, Dr S. Srinivasa Rao, Senior Scientist, ISRO and Prof. P. Jagadeeswara Rao, Department of Geo-engineering, I have worked towards semi-automated mapping of the surficial spread of riverine sand, using machine learning algorithms like Classification and Regression Trees, Support Vector Machine and Random Forests. In addition, I have extensively used the Google Earth Engine cloud computing platform for this purpose.
Q6. Which one thing do you want to change in yourself and why?
Overthinking. Of late, I have recognised that this habit of mine is taking my energy. I am dealing with the issue scientifically.
Q7. How do you see the Remote Sensing and GIS domain as a career for new students?
I have felt that this domain has always been an attractive one for the students because of the involvement of space-related sciences. However, I now expect that the application’s part will also emerge with the broadening scope of work that the geospatial industry can offer. So, the fields such as geospatial data scientists are getting more attention.
Q8. Which one skill do you like most about yourself?
Simply put, I am fascinated with maps and the ecosystem around maps. I especially like digital cartography and enjoy making maps.
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