Ex-NASA Engineer Is Using Drones to Plant One Billion Trees in a Year
Deforestation is a global issue that currently loses over 6.5 billion trees a year because of human activities and natural disasters. While efforts have been made to replant what’s been lost, the results are often done by hand—making it a slow and expensive option to replenishing our forests. One company has big plans to change the process by using drone technology. Known as BioCarbon Engineering, the organization was founded by ex-NASA engineer Lauren Fletcher and has committed itself to “changing the world 1 billion trees at a time.”
Drones offer a fantastic solution to the pitfalls of hand planting and spreading dry seeds. They streamline the reforestation process to make it faster and cheaper: with two operators handling multiple drones, Fletcher thinks that it’s possible to plant up to 36,000 trees a day at about 15% of the cost of traditional methods. "By using this approach,” he explained, “we can meet the scale of the problem out there."
Planting the trees is a multi-step process. To begin, fixed-winged drones fly above an area and assess its topography, nutrients, and biodiversity—essentially, the potential for rehabilitation. Afterwards, multi-rotator planting drones fly up to 10 feet above ground and release seed pods to predetermined positions—this increases the survival rate of the young plants. Once sewn, BioCarbon continues to monitor growth and the health of the overall ecosystem.
BioCarbon is currently in the research and development phase to perfect their planting system.
Here's how the restoration process works:
Mapping: A fixed-wing drone decides the areas to be restored.
Planting: A multi-rotator drone plants the seed pods into a precise, predetermined location.
Monitoring: After planting, the landscape is continually monitored and provides ecosystem assessments.