Drone Swarms Will Help Re-Plant Forests In Wildfire-Ravaged West

The United States has seen devastating wild fires this year. More than 8 million acres of land were ablaze, much of it forests. Restoring those forests are a mammoth task. Trees have to be grown in nurseries and then hundreds of volunteers need to plant the trees.

A Seattle-based company think they might have found a better way to replant trees. Their company, DroneSeed, uses fleets of drones to drop seeds into areas where trees have the best chance to grow.

The drones are not like the recreational drones you commonly see.

FaceBook | DroneSeed

The drones are eight feet wide and can carry 57 pounds of seeds! Five drones fly together in formation. Together, they can seed up to 50 acres a day.

Grant Canary, Drone Seed CEO, told CNN Business:

"We are six times faster than a tree planter out there with a shovel who's doing about two acres a day. [...] And we've cut the supply chains [for getting new seeds in the ground] down from three years to three months."

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the drones.

FaceBook | DroneSeed

The drones are not off-the-counter drones and will be flying out of sight of the operator. So they needed special permission from the FAA to operate.

The FAA authorized DroneSeed to begin seeding after fires are contained and the airspace is clear. This lessens the chances that a drone will collide with a plane.

Dropping seeds is not as effective as planting new trees.

FaceBook | DroneSeed

So, DroneSeed has created seed vessels to give them a better chance at surviving. The seeds are wrapped in a dry fiber that absorbs moisture. This will help stop the seedling from drying out and give it time to establish itself.

The seed vessels are also squirrel proof. DroneSeed treated the vessels with spicy peppers to make them less appealing to squirrels.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) helps determine the best spots for the seed vessels.

FaceBook | DroneSeed

The area is surveyed to map the terrain and vegetation. Then AI uses the mapping data to find spots where the trees have the best chance to survive.

Once the locations have been mapped, the drones fly autonomously in a grid pattern dropping seeds in the designated spots.

Drones will not be able to replace trees planters.

FaceBook | DroneSeed

But, drones can work with planters to repopulate forests faster. Canary says:

"Now I'm not saying we should get rid of nurseries, we should keep all the nurseries that we have because we need all the trees we can get. [...] But we've got to be able to do it faster."

h/t: CNN Business