This technology with drones would allow the seeds to be sown automatically, following a programmed route over a specific geographic area to be reforested.
The Hexacoptera drones (with six propellers) of Flash Forest (lightning forests or FF) already did the experience. They flew over burned fields, firing seed pods from native conifers at the ground to help restore the natural habitat of the region's birds and other animals.
The capacity of these 'drones' is equivalent to the manual work of ten people sowing in the traditional style, that is, digging the ground with shovels and sowing the seeds they carry in bags in the holes, dropping the seed pods or shooting them with a small pneumatic cannon from a low height, so that they are better buried.
These drones can plant the seeds automatically following a programmed route over a specific geographical area with the aim of replacing part of the 13,000 million trees that our planet loses annually.
When this technology is ready, the company will have a maximum objective of planting 100,000 pods of tree seeds per day using a fleet of 'drones' controlled by a single operator.
“Our goal is to plant 1 billion trees by 2028 ”, stand out on their website. “Every year, our planet loses 13,000 million trees and recovers less than half. Our goal is to heal the lungs of our planet”, They highlight.
Against climate change
For the drone company FF, planting trees is the fastest and cheapest way to capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) released by human actions into the atmosphere and which are responsible for the increase in the global temperature of the planet. Each tree absorbs about 18 kilograms of CO2 per year and the idea of FF is to reverse this environmental impact.
“There are many attempts in the world to address how to fix deforestation and boost reforestation, and existing forests must be protected while new trees are planted, but that is not working well, millions of trees are still being lost each year”Says Angelique Ahlstrom, co-founder and chief strategy officer at FF.
Ahlstrom believes that "reforestation drones" cannot alone tackle the problem of deforestation, but they can help restore some of the forests that have already been lost.
He notes that they will take advantage of new technologies to restore entire ecosystems and accelerate the global rate of reforestation, replanting trees at a rapid pace in areas where there were crops or forest fires.
Since the summer of 2019, the company has carried out several tests in different forest areas of Canada by means of the automated planting of thousands of seed pods of different varieties of spruce, pine, maples and birches, reaching the record of planting 165 trees in three minutes with a single drone, he notes.
How automated planting works
When they start working on a site, FF sends mapping (mapping) drones to survey the area and identify the best places to plant based on the existing soil and plants.
A flotilla of drones then precisely drop the seed pods onto the ground, wrapped in a mixture that, according to the company, enables the seeds to germinate weeks earlier than usual and store moisture, allowing the seedlings to survive and even mature. with months of drought.
In mountainous terrain or in mangrove forests, drones use a pneumatic device that shoots seed pods by burying them deeper, allowing it to plant in more difficult areas that human planters cannot access, according to Ahlstrom.
Then, the company sends its drones periodically for months to follow the progress of the seedlings and, if enough trees have not flourished to absorb the expected volume of CO2, they return to that same area to plant more trees and achieve the objectives.
In controlled plantation studies, high survival rates of planted trees have been recorded, and FF hopes to be able to reproduce them in real-world settings, according to Ahlstrom.
FF's strategy is to use between four and eight native species obtained from local seed banks, to prioritize biodiversity, and to plant a large number of trees, to let some survive naturally, without requiring human labor to keep the seedlings alive. .
This technology allows selecting the best planting sites and averaging a planting density of 2,000 trees per hectare.
Following current work near Toronto and in British Columbia, FF will begin planting 300,000 trees in Hawaii by the end of 2020, with other similar projects planned in Australia, Colombia and Malaysia.
Trees need to grow 10-20 years before they store carbon efficiently, so in order for them to have an impact on reversing climate change by the middle of this century, they need to start being planted in large numbers and growing as quickly as possible. possible right now, for which it is absolutely necessary to use drone technology, according to FF.