March 30, 2015
An Oxford, England-based company is working to tackle global climate change by using a fleet of drones to plant 1 billion trees per year.
Lauren Fletcher, CEO of BioCarbon Engineering, and his team are developing planting technologies that will be combined with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sensors to deliver "precision planting and mapping."
"I'd been following trends on drones for the last five years," Fletcher told WIRED.co.uk. "Global deforestation is happening at an industrial scale. Governments and organizations are spending billions planting trees, but the standard method of hand-planting can't keep up."
The team's solution balances the methods of hand-planting and delivering seeds by air, according to the company's website.
First, by planting germinated seeds using precision agriculture techniques, we increase uptake rates. Second, our scalable, automated technology significantly reduces the manpower requirements and costs. Finally, our mapping UAVs will also provide invaluable intelligence on planting patterns, landscape design and appropriate timing.
Fletcher told WIRED.co.uk that his drones would aim to plant up to 36,000 seeds a day, as well as access areas people find hard to penetrate. This is in contrast to the 3,000 seeds per day that two human planters could manage.
"Our mapping drones track the topography and the soil types, and we work with ecologists to ensure that what we're planting is the right species," he said. "We want the highest yield proportion and to protect the biodiversity."
BioCarbon Engineering's technology was a finalist in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)'s Drones for Good competition in Dubai in February.