Billions of trees are felled each year, according to the Rainforest Action Network, and planting a tree requires more time and effort than cutting one down. That makes keeping up with deforestation rates challenging for conservationists. The minds behind one tech startup think they can speed up global tree-planting efforts by taking the burden off humans and placing it on drones.
BioCarbon Engineering has assembled a fleet of drones that can plant thousands of trees a day, as Fast Company reports. The company will soon focus its efforts on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River delta, an area that’s seen rapid loss of its mangrove trees due to aquaculture, agriculture, and logging. Estimates place the amount of regional mangroves destroyed in the past 30 years between 75 and 83 percent. Starting in September, BioCarbon will partner with Worldview International Foundation to aid restoration efforts started by human hands.
Spreading seeds from aircraft (like helicopters) is not a new strategy. These methods are valued for their speed, but chances of tree survival are hurt in the process. To come up with an efficient way of planting that doesn’t damage seeds, BioCarbon had to get innovative.
After the company maps a plot of land from above and analyzes the best spots for planting, their drones fly low to the ground and fire nutrient-packed seed pods into the soil. This way, more seeds end up in places where they’ll thrive rather than on rocks or in streams where they’ll go to waste.
With one human pilot for every six drones, the company is able to get 100,000 pods in the ground a day. Even in places with regulations restricting pilots to one drone at a time, the vehicles are 10 times faster and half as expensive as human labor. Worldview International Foundation, which has worked with the Irrawaddy delta community to plant 750 hectares of trees so far, hopes to expand that area by 250 hectares with help from BioCarbon Engineering. The team also plans to continue employing locals to assemble seed pods and cultivate saplings.
To get a closer look at their planting process, check out the video below.
[h/t Fast Company]