Today when the word conservation is mentioned, several things come to mind. Often the most unfortunate after-effects of human actions on the planet are just a few of those things. For instance, one only has to consider mass-extinction events, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, pollution and climate change when considering our impact on the Earth.
Though we've gotten better at identifying the causes and proposing solutions for our negative impact on the planet, it can feel overwhelming when the scope of these problems are considered all at once.
We all want to contribute to making the planet a better place but in the long run, feasible solutions must be suggested and implemented by large organizations, governmental bodies, and companies who must also become more conscious and active about bettering the environment. Our next startup, Seattle, Washington-based DroneSeed is one of the companies taking up this challenge.
Their intervention seeks to tackle the problem of deforestation which is directly related to increasing global warming, loss of biodiversity and habitat loss. How are they planning to take on deforestation?
With drones of course! The use of drones is not just a fashionable choice for this startup, it's a way to plant more trees in a shorter amount of time with a more targetted approach. In environments where forest land is available for additional planting, the costs and limitations of hiring workers to traverse rough terrain is often a set back for planting as many trees as possible.
However, their new device DroneSeed may be a faster and safer way to address this issue. This FAA approved device can spray for invasive plant species, plant trees (via aerial planting) and collect data about field conditions.
We’re working with commercial foresters to make reforestation more efficient. Offering a one-stop solution, our team of drones plants tree seeds and sprays fertilizer and herbicides to keep trees healthy.
Though their planned interventions sound quite impressive it is important to note that at this time their drones are only capable of spraying for invasive plant species, not planting new trees (just yet). Their current focus on spraying includes the control of competitive vegetation which is either invasive or threatens the return of a balanced forest ecosystem.
This includes spraying for plans such as Big-Leaf maple, Himalayan blackberries, and Scotch Broom. Although their actual plating and data acquisition applications will come later, this is an important first step in ensuring that areas remain viable and available for the return of native plants.
In the future, they are hoping to equip their drones with compressed air to be able to fire seeds into "microsites," or pre-decided tree planting sites. This process not only means that more trees are planted more quickly but it also means that manual hole digging and plot creation is not needed so additional labor and costs aren't required.
This scan helps in the planning of the planting strategy for when the individual drones are ready to shoot seed pods. Future data collection would leverage the camera capabilities on DroneSeed's multiple drones in order to collect data on the environment and terrain. This data, in turn, can be used to provide information to forestry companies and researchers.
DroneSeed currently operates out of the North West and South Eastern United States, however, if successful, their idea could be applied worldwide, especially in inhospitable climates that are difficult to traverse for planting and other reforestation initiatives.
Their drones can stay in the air for 15-20 minutes and hold up to 4 gallons though they leverage the number of drones they have and their personalized software to accomplish larger missions.
Although there haven't been updated since late last year on their project, the idea of utilizing drones in situations that are too expensive, dangerous or time consuming for the use human workers is gaining ground worldwide. I am only hopeful in the future that these intervention methods continue to take off.
Hopefully, in 10 years time, the idea of reforestation will no longer look like a monumental task, but rather a task easily manageable by drone technology. The importance of DroneSeed's intervention techniques also goes beyond just blindly planting trees and considers both long-term risks and decisions, based on prior research and the eradication of invasive and otherwise harmful plant species. The future of reforestation has yet to be finalized, however, it seems that deforestation has already met its match.