Mighty Things

For the Connected World

Planting Trees With Drones

Global deforestation is one of the biggest challenges contributing to climate change. Currently, the world destroys 26 billion trees per year, while it only replants about 15 billion. Even if governments and organizations are spending billions planting trees, we’re not doing it fast enough to keep up with deforestation.

The standard method of hand-planting is very slow and expensive. Imagine that you need to plant just 1 billion trees in the span of a year. If you do the math, a billion trees a year means about 2.8 million per day, every single day of the year. That’s a mighty challenge.

That’s why a UK startup wants to automate the process with drone technology. Oxford-based BioCarbon Engineering is developing planting technologies that will be integrated with sensors and mapping/planting drones, using geospatial information in forest planning and management.

“We are going to counter industrial scale deforestation using industrial scale reforestation. Destruction of global forests from lumber, mining, agriculture, and urban expansion destroys 26 billion trees each year. We believe that this industrial scale deforestation is best combated using the latest automation technologies.” – BioCarbon Engineering

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will first track the topography and the soil types, while generating high quality 3D maps of the area to be reforested. The goal is to ensure that the right species are been planted at the right spots with the highest yield proportion while protecting the biodiversity. Those drones will then plant biodegradable, nutrient rich seed pods.

For me, this setting perfectly illustrates the potential of the Internet of Things. Value from the drones will arise chiefly from productivity improvements and labor efficiency. Two human planters can only manage to plant up to 3,000 seeds per day, while two operators managing multiple drones can plant up 36,000 trees in a day. Put simply, more seeds can be planted in one day on a wider plot of land at about 15% of the cost of traditional methods. This is the beauty of the Internet of Things.

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