Planting trees manually can be very labor intensive. BioCarbon Engineering is working with Worldview International Foundation and Worldview Impact Foundation to develop an innovative way to speed up tree reforestation projects with the use of drones. It took five years for the villagers living in the delta of the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar to manually plant 2.7 million mangroves. These trees are vital to the health of the local ecosystem with 75% of the game fish and 90% of the commercial species relying on mangrove forests for survival. Deforestation and other ecological disturbances have reduced mangroves in the area to less than 20% of the original extent.
The technology that BioCarbon Engineering has developed involves a two-step process. In the first step, fixed-wing drones map out the terrain to be planted. Sensors on the drone collect data about elevation, biodiversity, and obstacles. From that data, an optimized planting pattern is mapped. The second drone then follows the mapped route, planing 300 seed pods over one hectare in 18 minutes. These seed pods are biodegradable and enhanced to optimize germination and tree survival unlike aerial reseeding. The drone fires these seed pods while flying about six feet above ground. The force of the firing drives the seed pod beneath the surface of the soil. The process allows for seeding that is ten times faster than manual planting but costs about half as much.
This video explains the drone tree planting approach:
- Using Unmanned Aircraft to Help Map Threatened Plant Species
- UAVs, GIS, and Ecology
- The Use of Drones in Human and Physical Geography