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Digital Globe

Application and clients

Agriculture monitoring/management

With increasing population pressure throughout the world and the need for increased agricultural production there is a definite need for improved management of the world's agricultural resources. To make this happen it is first necessary to obtain reliable data on not only the types, but also the quality, quantity and location of these resources. Satellite or Aerial Remote Sensing (RS) technology has been and always will continue to be a very important factor in the improvement of the present systems of acquiring and generating agricultural and resources data.

Agriculture - Satellite and airborne images are used as mapping tools to classify crops, examine their health and viability and monitor farming practices. Agricultural applications of remote sensing include the following (CCRS: Tutorial: Fundamentals of Remote Sensing):

  • crop type classification
  • crop condition assessment
  • crop yield estimation
  • mapping of soil characteristics
  • mapping of soil management practices
  • compliance monitoring (farming practices)


  • Department of Agrarian development
  • Department Agriculture
  • Rice Research institutes (RRI)
  • Natural resource management center

Defense/Military operations

Capabilities that use GIS and RS

  • Command and control
  • Defense mapping organizations
  • Base operations and facility management
  • Force protection and security
  • Environmental security and resource management
  • Health and hygiene
  • Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems
  • Logistics
  • Military engineering
  • Mine clearance and mapping
  • Mission planning
  • Peacekeeping operations
  • Modeling, simulation and training
  • Terrain analysis
  • Visualization


  • Sri Lanka Navy

Engineering and construction

Remote sensing (RS) observation provides the information about earth natural resources in spatial format. The remote sensing data has the advantage of covering large areas. From the analysis of image patterns present in the data, the required information in the field of civil engineering is derived. These patterns reflect the influence of the type of parent material, geological process undergone, the climatic, biotic and physio graphic environment and man's activity. In the projects of civil engineering, remote sensing is important and crucial tools.


  • Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPO)
  • Arthur Clarke Center
  • Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB)
  • CeyWater consultants (Pvt) Ltd
  • Ministry of Economic Development
  • National Water Supply & Drainage Board (NWSDW)

Environmental water Conservation

GIS and RS are powerful tools for developing solutions for water resources such as assessing water quality and managing water resources on a local or regional scale.


  • Department of Forest Conservation
  • Department of Wildlife conservation
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • International Water Management Institutes (IWMI)

Forest/Land Use Management

The use and management of forest resources need to be based on the mapping and inventory of the forestry environment. In addition to these static data, the changing state of the forest, as a result of natural or human-induced causes (felling, clearing, fire, reforestation, decline, regeneration, etc.), also needs to be monitored. Remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) provide for the continuous monitoring of forest developments by detecting changes and for the integration of the results into existing databases.

The operational availability of high-resolution satellite imagery, namely GeoEye, IKONOS, Worldview, Quick bird opens up new possibilities for investigating and monitoring forest resources. Compared with information acquired by traditional methods, these data offer a number of advantages:

  • Satellite imagery can cover vast expanses of land (thousands to tens of thousands of km2 on one image). It can be acquired regularly over the same area and recorded in different wavelengths, thus tracking the state of forest resources.
  • Satellite data can be acquired without encountering administrative restrictions.
Forestry applications of remote sensing include the following.

Reconnaissance mapping: Objectives to be met by national forest/environment agencies include forest cover updating, depletion monitoring and measuring biophysical properties of
  • Forest stands
  • Forest cover type discrimination
  • Agroforestry mapping
Commercial forestry: importance to commercial forestry companies and to resource management agencies are inventory and mapping applications(collecting harvest information, updating of inventory information for timber supply, broad forest)
  • Type, vegetation density, and biomass measurements.
  • Clear cut mapping / regeneration assessment
  • Fire delineation
  • Infrastructure mapping / operations support
  • Forest inventory
  • Biomass estimation
  • Species inventory


  • Department of Forest Conservation
  • Department of Wildlife conservation
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

GIS and RS Education


GIS is no longer just for geography departments. By putting information in the context of geography, GIS can be applied across several fields of study to enhance learning and teaching. GIS can give students the skills they need for careers in health, marketing, environmental studies, engineering, natural resource management and of course, geography.


  • University of Peradeniya
  • University of Moratuwa
  • University of Colombo
  • University of Sri Jayawardanapura
  • University of Sabaragamuwa
  • University of Uva Wellassa
  • University of Ruhuna

Health and Human Services

Case Management

GIS supports service coordination by providing tools for data sharing and analysis that can be used by a variety of stakeholders across different organizations. Human services organizations use GIS to track performance, analyze multiple datasets and make decisions on resource allocation to respond to the human services needs of the community. GIS also assists in fraud detection by tracking the use of resources by recipients and vendors operating within human service programs.


  • Academic Programs and Research institutes, Faculty of Medicine-University of Colombo

Land Developments

In an urban environment natural and human-induced environmental changes are of concern today because of deterioration of environment and human health. The study of land use/land cover (LU/LC) changes is very important to have proper planning and utilization of natural resources and their management. Traditional methods for gathering demographic data, censuses, and analysis of environmental samples are not adequate for multi complex environmental studies, since many problems often presented in environmental issues and great complexity of handling the multidisciplinary data set, we require new technologies like satellite remote sensing and Geographical Information Systems (GISs). These technologies provide data to study and monitor the dynamics of natural resources for environmental management.

Remote sensing has become an important tool applicable to developing and understanding the global, physical processes affecting the earth. Recent development in the use of satellite data is to take advantage of increasing amounts of geographical data available in conjunction with GIS to assist in interpretation. GIS is an integrated system of computer hardware and software capable of capturing, storing, retrieving, manipulating, analyzing and displaying geographically referenced (spatial) information for the purpose of aiding development-oriented management and decision-making processes. Remote sensing and GIS have covered wide range of applications in the fields of agriculture, environments, and integrated eco-environment assessment. Several researchers have focused on LU/LC studies because of their adverse effects on ecology of the area and vegetation.


  • Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC)
  • Urban Development Authority (UDA)

Mapping requirement

Land Cadaster / Cartographic / Topographic

The combination of several spatial datasets (points, lines, or polygons) creates a new output vector dataset, visually similar to stacking several maps of the same region. These overlays are similar to mathematical Venn diagram overlays. A union overlay combines the geographic features and attribute tables of both inputs into a single new output. An intersect overlay defines the area where both inputs overlap and retains a set of attribute fields for each. A symmetric difference overlay defines an output area that includes the total area of both inputs except for the overlapping area.

Data extraction is a GIS process similar to vector overlay, though it can be used in either vector or raster data analysis. Rather than combining the properties and features of both datasets, data extraction involves using a "clip" or "mask" to extract the features of one data set that fall within the spatial extent of another dataset.

In raster data analysis, the overlay of datasets is accomplished through a process known as "local operation on multiple raster's" or "map algebra," through a function that combines the values of each raster's matrix. This function may weigh some inputs more than others through use of an "index model" that reflects the influence of various factors upon a geographic phenomenon.


  • Department of Survey
  • Panoptic Survey Engineers (Pvt) Ltd

Mining/Earth observations

As known deposits of valuable minerals are consumed, the mining industry needs to employ increasingly sophisticated techniques in its search for new reserves. At the same time, mining companies are becoming more sensitive to environmental issues and are looking for new tools to help them monitor and reduce the damaging effects of their operations. This project arose out of discussions between mining companies and consultants who recognized the potential for combining prospecting and monitoring techniques. The project had two main objectives. First, the partners wanted to find ways to use existing data and new remote sensing data in the search for hidden mineral deposits. Second, they wanted to extend the use of remote sensing for the assessment, surveillance and monitoring of the environmental impact of mining operations. The main technical challenge was to make the system sufficiently flexible to accommodate the requirements of all the potential users. Until now there has been no systematic use of data for both exploration and monitoring. Remote sensing, from aircraft and satellites, is a powerful technique in mineral prospecting which can be adapted for environmental monitoring. The partners in this project brought data from remote sensing together with ground measurements in a GIS, a computer database used to correlate spatial data with an underlying map of the area.

Geology - Remote sensing is used as a tool to extract information about the land surface structure, composition or subsurface, but is often combined with other data sources providing complementary measurements. Multispectral data can provide information on lithology or rock composition based on spectral reflectance. Radar provides an expression of surface topography and roughness and thus is extremely valuable, especially when integrated with another data source to provide detailed relief.
Geological applications of remote sensing include the following:

  • Surficial deposit / bedrock mapping
  • Lithological mapping
  • Structural mapping
  • Sand and gravel (aggregate) exploration / exploitation
  • Mineral exploration
  • Hydrocarbon exploration
  • Environmental geology
  • Geo-botany
  • Baseline infrastructure
  • Sedimentation mapping and monitoring
  • Event mapping and monitoring
  • Geo-hazard mapping
  • Planetary mapping


  • Geological survey and mines bureau (GSMB)
  • Gem and Jewelry Research & Training Institute (GJRTI)

Natural Resources Management and Environmental Monitoring

The Natural Resources Management and Environmental Monitoring Program builds upon several on-going initiatives: the goals addressed in the UN Millennium Declaration.

There is no simple answer to our environmental and natural resource concerns, but whether you are restoring habitats, planting crops, drilling for oil or monitoring endangered species there is increasing optimism that the application of GIS RS tools will help us become a more sustainable planet.

Environmental monitoring: Conservation authorities are concerned with monitoring the quantity, health and diversity of the Earth's forests

  • Deforestation (rainforest, mangrove colonies)
  • Species inventory
  • Watershed protection (riparian strips)
  • Coastal protection (mangrove forests)
  • Forest health


  • Ministry of Environment and renewable energy
  • Central Environmental Authority (CEA)
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
  • Institute of Fundamental Studies (IFS)
  • Genentech Consulting (Pvt) Ltd
  • National Aquatic Resources Research & Development Agency (NARA)

Oceans and Coastal Monitoring

GIS and RS is tools that manages, analyzes and models data from our environment so that we can make decisions based on that information to better conserve its resources and protect its biodiversity. Coastlines are environmentally sensitive interfaces between the ocean and land and respond to changes brought about by economic development and changing land-use patterns. Often coastlines are also biologically diverse inter-tidal zones and can also be highly urbanized. With over 60% of the world's population living close to the ocean, the coastal zone is a region subject to increasing stress from human activity. Government agencies concerned with the impact of human activities in this region need new data sources with which to monitor such diverse changes as coastal erosion, loss of natural habitat, urbanization, effluents and offshore pollution. Many of the dynamics of the open ocean and changes in the coastal region can be mapped and monitored using remote sensing techniques.


  • Department of Coastal Conservation
  • National Aquatic Resources Research & Development Agency (NARA)
  • Urban Development Authority (UDA)

Plantation/Estate Management

Technology's mapping systems can be used in all areas of estate management

  • Tenancy plans
  • Property management
  • Land registration
  • Environmental protection areas
  • Wayleaves / easements
  • Utilities
  • Tree management
  • Arboreta and Gardens


  • Coconut research institutes (CRI)
  • Rubber Research institutes (RRI)
  • Rice Research institutes (RRI)
  • FINLAY Plantation (Pvt) Ltd

Public Safety

Disaster management

The application of remote sensing and GIS has become a well-developed and successful tool in disaster management, as we have our location observation programs and the requisite for hazard mitigation and monitoring rank high in the planning of new satellites. GIS allows for the combination of different kinds of data using models. It allows for the combination of the different kinds of spatial data with non-spatial data, attribute data and use them as useful information in the various stages of disaster management. Various disasters like earthquake, landslides, flood, fires, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and cyclones are natural hazards that kill lots of of people and destroy property and infrastructure every year. The rapid increase of the population and its increased concentration, often in hazardous environment, has escalated both the frequency and severity of natural disasters. Among the tropical climate and unstable land forms, coupled with deforestation, unplanned growth propagation non-engineered constructions which make the disaster prone areas sheer vulnerable, slow communication, poor budgetary allocation for disaster prevention, developing countries suffer more or less unceasingly by natural disasters.

Disaster mapping
Disaster mapping is the drawing of areas disturbed through excessive natural or manmade troubles resulting in loss of life, property and national infrastructures. It is normally possible to define the area affected by the disruption. The delineation can occur through the use of ground-based observations or through the use of remote sensing devices such as aerial photographs or satellite images. From the information gathered, it is possible to map the affected areas and provide information to the relief supplying groups. Disaster mapping is a tool for assessing, storing and conveying information on the geographical location and spread of the effects, or probable effects of disasters. The difficulty with traditional manual maps is that they are tedious and time consuming to prepare, difficult to update and inconvenient to maintain. Remote sensing is emerging as a popular means of map preparation while GIS can be used for storage, analysis and retrieval. Under remote sensing techniques, maps can be prepared using satellite data or aerial photographs and then digitized and stored on computers using GIS software. Disaster maps generally show risk zones as well as disaster impact zones. These are marked areas that would be affected increasingly with the increase in the magnitude of the disaster. These could include landslide hazard maps, flood zone maps, seismic zone maps, forest fire risk maps, and industrial risks.


  • Disaster management center (DMC)

Transport management

Highways planning / Railways planning / Aviation planning

Finding the right balance between the need to accommodate demand on public infrastructure and the responsibility to preserve quality of life and environmental sustainability in your community is a challenge. GIS technology provides rich analytic and visual tools to help you meet this challenge. GIS provides a framework to inform models, such as those used to forecast travel demand and plan capital improvements, and to support strategic decision making. In addition, GIS applications that perform environmental evaluations shed light on the consequences of various transportation alternatives.

Transportation Safety Analysis Recent transportation legislation strongly emphasizes achieving higher levels of safety on the nation's highways. GIS allows highway departments to accurately capture and analyze traffic accident information as well as identify dangerous highway segment locations with high accident rates. GIS, combined with complex statistical analysis and business intelligence tools, helps highway engineers better understand the causes of accidents at these locations and find ways of reducing them.


  • Airport Aviation Services (Pvt) Ltd
  • Road Development Authority (RDA)

Urban and Regional planning

No matter how large or small your community, planners must deal with spatial information: parcel, zoning and land use data, addresses, transportation networks and housing stock. As a planner, you also study and keep track of multiple urban and regional indicators, forecast future community needs, and plan accordingly to guarantee the quality of life for everyone in livable communities. Federal, regional, state, county, and local planning agencies have realized the power of enterprise GIS to identify problems, respond to them efficiently and share the results with the public.

Generally site investigation requires topographic and geologic consideration. For instance, for dam site investigation information on topography is required, and geological consideration comes in finding different soil and rock types. Slopes like river banks, terrace faces and valley wall has the consideration slopes leading down to and up from water crossing. The high spatial resolution satellite data with capability of stereo vision can make easy in finding the depth perception and also helps for the regional planning of large commercial airports, harbors and industrial towns.


  • Urban Development Authority (UDA)
  • Department of Survey
  • Ministry of Defense

Water Management

The use of remote sensing and GIS in water monitoring and management has been long recognized. Remote sensing and GIS specifically in monitoring water quality parameter such as suspended matter, phytoplankton, turbidity and dissolved organic matter. In fact the capability of this technology offers great tools of how the water quality monitoring and managing can be operationalized in this country. Potential application and management is identified in promoting concept of sustainable water resource management. In conclusion remote sensing and GIS technologies coupled with computer modeling are useful tools in providing a solution for future water resources planning and management to government especially in formulating policy related to water quality.


  • International Water Management Institute (IWMI)
  • Department of Irrigation
  • Mahaweli Authority
  • UNDP
  • CARE-Sri Lanka