Each year, around 26 billion trees are lost to lumber, mining, agriculture, and development while only 15 billion trees are replanted annually worldwide. Clearly, with an annual deficit of 11 billion trees we need a better plan to fight against deforestation. This is where drones come into play. The plan is to use them for planting trees in order to equalize rates of reforestation with the current levels of deforestation.
England-based BioCarbon Engineering’s came up with this amazing idea. Just looking at the Amazon rainforest, it has shrunk by 20 percent in the past half century, especially due to the opening of the Trans-Amazonian highway in 1972, which literally created the pathway for exploitation. While the deforestation of the Amazon has been slowed significantly since the mid-2000s, it is presently losing about 2,000 square miles (5,000 square km) of forest a year, or nearly one million football fields.
Drones will be used for mapping, planting and monitoring
To achieve its goal of planting one billion trees a year, BioCarbon is developing a fleet of drones that, if all goes according to plan, will engage in a three-step process of mapping, planting, and monitoring. Generating sophisticated 3D maps of the landscape, the drones can be used to determine precisely where to plant, and how much planting is needed to restore a forest.
Then, hovering above the ground at between 2-3 meters, the drones use pressurized air to fire germinated seed pods into precisely targeted locations. Each pod is encapsulated in a “nutrient-rich hydrogel” that presumably feeds the seed until it takes root. Later, the drones can be used to monitor the progress of the fresh growth.
Just 2 drones could plant 36,000 seeds per day
BioCarbon says that their system is better and cheaper. At a rate of ten seeds per minute, two drone operators could plant 36,000 seeds a day, according to BioCarbon founder Lauren Fletcher. Not only would the innovation be significantly more efficient than traditional planting methods, it can also be done at about 15 percent of the cost. “First, by planting germinated seeds using precision agricultural techniques, we increase uptake rates. Second, our scalable automated technology significantly reduces the manpower requirements and costs.”
While planting 1 billion trees a year is not quite enough to offset damage caused by deforestation, it definitely is a great start. Before, the only option was hand planting which is slow and expensive. Fletcher says, “We’re hoping that our technology is going to provide opportunities to really scale up the reforestation and replanting rates.”
H/T to inhabitat