Meet Gerry Ong - Head of Geospatial

Get to know Gerry and interesting facts on LiDAR

8 Questions With Gerry Ong

Head of Geospatial & Co-Founder
Leader of ASEAN FLAG’s Climate Change & Sustainability working group to bring transparency and traceability in Forestry and Biodiversity Management throughout ASEAN

Q1. Tell us what you do at Arkadiah and how would you explain your job to someone outside the industry?
I lead the Geospatial team at Arkadiah. We use LiDAR equipment to map forests and organise the information for our scientists to calculate forest carbon biomass and assess the state of the forest for possible mitigation or intervention strategies.

Q2. You were a land surveyor for over 30 years. How did you get started in geospatial for nature technology?
As a land surveyor, I was involved in various Building/Construction projects, 3D mapping and other governmental initiatives including digital twin creation of cities. An opportunity came to work with a forward thinking arborist to create a national digital map of trees for the country. Through this, I worked with government authorities to use LiDAR to improve productivity, data integrity and traceability of tree measurements.

Q3. Can you explain LiDAR technology to us in simple terms?
LiDAR stands for Light Detection And Ranging. This technology uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges or distances. There are various grades of LiDAR used for a variety of use cases and costs. The LiDAR technology Arkadiah uses for forest mapping is extremely high quality and precise, considered as Professional Survey grade.    

Q4. What is Arkadiah’s approach in using LiDAR to estimate carbon biomass for carbon dioxide removals?
We believe in the importance of on-site ground measurements, also called “ground truth”. At the sites, we carry out precise digital reconstruction of the trees to determine the total wood volume and apply tree species specific carbon factor to calculate carbon biomass.   

Q5. When you are on site to take ground measurements, tell us what is most challenging and b) what gives you the greatest satisfaction?
One of the most challenging aspects of my work involves navigating and operating in extremely difficult terrains like water-logged swampy lands. Every step is gruelling, and we must remain vigilant against potential hazards from insects, reptiles, and even leeches in those environments. However, no matter how arduous the conditions, the greatest satisfaction comes from collecting accurate, reliable, and traceable datasets. Enabling our scientists to achieve higher accuracy and ground truth-backed analysis through the data we painstakingly gather makes braving those challenging terrains tremendously rewarding.

Q6. What do you hope to see that LiDAR or other geospatial technology can do for nature restoration?
I look forward to future advancements allowing agile mini or micro-sized drones equipped with LiDAR sensors to autonomously survey and map forest areas. These drones could freely navigate through the trees, continuously collecting detailed mapping data that gets transmitted back in real-time. This capability would revolutionise forest management practices by providing unprecedented transparency into the state of these ecosystems through comprehensive, accurately-traced spatial data. With this level of insight, we can make more timely and informed decisions to better conserve and restore natural forestlands. 

Q7. You recently moderated a panel at GeoConnect Asia 2024 which gathered geospatial experts from multiple industry sectors like transportation, urban planning, construction, mining, agriculture etc. Can you share with us some key takeaways?
There have been many insightful takeaways from the recent conference. I will share some key ones in relation to climate management and mitigation: The increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones) equipped with LiDAR and imaging sensors has broadened the geospatial industry’s capabilities and footprint. This is resulting in higher quality deliverables, faster turnaround times, and more cost-effective solutions
In the agriculture and nature based solutions space, geospatial tech continues to drive higher quality forest management and precision farming for optimum crop yields through data-drive decision making.
In the disaster mitigation and risk reduction space, access to accurate, up-to-date geospatial data has allowed implementation of effective early warning systems across Asia, playing a crucial role in protecting lives from natural disasters.

Q8. Tell us your favourite dessert.
Vanilla Ice Cream

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