Can Drones Plant 1 Billion Trees Per Year?

Drones use detailed terrain data to build high resolution 3D maps of the areas to be reforested then fire a pregerminated seed pod into the soil with pressurized air

When we talk about drones, it usually revolves around something fun or some spectacular footage. And sometimes we discuss whether or not drone delivery will happen in the United States.

But, on a more serious note, there are some really useful applications for drones, including a new system from UK-based BioCarbon Engineering that hopes to reverse deforestation by planting one billion trees per year.

The system, which is expected to be a fully functioning platform by the end of 2015, uses an industrial-scale reforestation technique that is a fraction of the cost (15%) of traditional methods and much more efficient - it can plant up to 10s of thousands of trees per day.

More than 26 billion trees are cut down or burned each year, while only about 15 billion are replanted each year. TreeHugger takes a closer look at the system:

The BioCarbon Engineering drone tree planting system doesn’t just send out quadcopters full of tree seeds to disperse them over the land, but instead first uses detailed terrain data to build high resolution 3D maps of the areas to be reforested. The planting drones then fly out and perform “precision planting activities” in those areas, by firing a pregerminated seed pod into the soil with pressurized air, with the pod being encapsulated in a nutrient-rich hydrogel for “high up-take rates.” After planting, the drones will also be used to audit and monitor the reforested sections to assess the recovery of the areas.

“There are a variety of tree-planting techniques, including planting by hand and delivering dry seeds by air. However, hand-planting is slow and expensive, and spreading dry seeds results in low uptake rates.

Our solution balances these two methods. First, by planting germinated seeds using precision agriculture techniques, we increase uptake rates. Second, our scalable, automated technology significantly reduces the manpower requirements and costs. Finally, our mapping UAVs will also provide invaluable intelligence on planting patterns, landscape design and appropriate timing.” - BioCarbon Engineering

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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