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How the Indian Topography is Digitized into a Digital Map

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India has commenced a project to digitally map the country using AI, big data and drones. Read on to know more…

India has commenced a project to digitally map the country using AI, big data, image processing, continuously operated reference system and drones with a resolution of 10 centimetres. According to Department’s Secretary, Prof Ashutosh Sharma, the gigantic task was taken up by the Survey of India, part of the Department of Science and Technology, a few months ago and is planned to be completed in two years.

Once the project is completed, the data will be available to citizens and to Gram Panchayats and local bodies,empowering them to use it in decision making and planning process. The survey is currently in progress in Karnataka, Haryana, Maharashtra and the Ganga basin. “The entire Ganga basin from the beginning to the end, 25 km from either sides of the banks is being mapped with an accuracy of 10 cm,” said Prof Sharma.

Ground Reality
The ground reality is that even now, we do not have a digital map of India of sufficient accuracy. But the new digital map being prepared is going to be the basis for everything you do, whether we have to lay down train tracks, lay a road, put up a hospital, cleaning up Ganga, cleaning up Cauvery or any kind of development and planning.

A government official clarified that Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was not part of the programme.

The Technology
The scientific department has set up three digital centres to generate digital topographic database and create a digital map of India across terrains to aid geo-information systems. The Indian government officials clarified that current technology being used to draw digital map is a different technology not involving satellite images but rather it is based on drones. A map is different from an image. We have to produce a map which takes into account the curvature. Speaking about the continuously operated reference system, the Survey of India has a reference point at every 20 km. “Now with the digital technology, each of these points you put actually a beacon…a stick…a digital station… with the help of these digital stations, whose coordinates are wellestablished, even using your smart phones you can do your mapping with an accuracy of 10 cm,” according to Prof Sharma.

Digital map is different from GPS (Global Positioning System). While the GPS may have an accuracy of a few metres, the planned digital map — with these reference points at every 20 km — increases the accuracy manifold. Hence you can do mapping as you go up and down, walk around with a resolution of 10 cm or even better.

The government mapping system would be drone-powered, and the information collected would be corroborated with the ground-based data. The project has already begun in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Haryana. However, it has given equal consideration to concerns of national security, and will accordingly edit out portions of the territory that are sensitive to the security infrastructure.

While the drones, mostly outsourced, will be used to map the length and breadth of India, the department plans to undertake a groundbased survey to corroborate the information before coming up with a high-resolution 3-D map.

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