Drones that can shoot seeds into the ground are taking reforestation to an “industrial” level.
Reforestation with drones
Our forests are shrinking--they have been for a while. Trees are felled for timber, and to give way for developments, farms, mines, and urban sprawls. Wherever we’re sitting now, a tree probably once stood. However, as populations grow, so does the demand for space. Around 15 million trees are cut down every year for various purposes, and this has accelerated the progress of global warming.
Trees are capable of absorbing greenhouse gases; the more trees there are, the more greenhouse gases will be removed from the atmosphere. The fewer trees there are, however, the more greenhouse gases will keep polluting our air.
UK-based start-up BioCarbon Engineering (BCE) has decided to make the best of modern technology to save our forests. Their technique has the potential of being able to plant up to one million trees per day.
Video by Info BioCarbon
While tree planting programs can happen at a large scale, involving entire communities of people, they can also take a lot of time. Thus, BCE is aiming for something they call “industrial-scale reforestation”, a technique in which automation is key. They plan on using drones that can fire seeds at a speed that can ensure that the seeds will indeed be planted in the soil.
The first part of the planting process is scanning the terrain with drones and producing a 3D map. Using this map, the team at BCE can figure out an optimum planting pattern. The pattern will then be built into an algorithm, and the algorithm will guide the “firing drone” along the pattern. To ensure the success of this technique, the firing drones will fly at just six feet over the ground, and the seed pods they’re firing will already be germinated. More interestingly, however, is that a single drone operator will be able to control six drones, thus making the technique more efficient.
Of course, this isn’t really the most novel concept. However, previous aerial seeding methods may be less efficient and less successful than drone seeding. Tests have already shown that the seeds planted by drones have a better survival rate than those planted by helicopter-based aerial planting. In fact, some of the drone-planted species even had almost the same survival rates as the species planted by hand.
Drones are also set to restore mangrove forests in Myanmar.
On the surface, it seems that planting speed is the best thing about using drones for reforestation. However, there’s more to the technique than speed. Drones can also reach places that are difficult or dangerous for humans to visit, like remote mountaintops. This way, therefore, more ground will be covered.
BCE’s ambitions don’t actually end in those remote mountaintops. There’s also a possibility that the same technique can be adapted and used to terraform planets in the future.
It seems that BCE has the accomplishments to back up their lofty goals, because since the organization’s formation, they’ve managed to use drones to plant over 25,000 trees around the world. BCE has also started on a new project planting mangroves in Myanmar on a large scale.
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