They are sometimes mistaken for birds. And for the purpose of reforestation, they act like them, too.
“I’m going to replace birds with drones, and ever since we’ve been working on a technology that would allow us to mimic nature,” said Aymeric Maudous, CEO of Lord of the Trees.
Drones are becoming more common in our everyday lives, from delivery to video, and now drones are being used to drop seeds for reforestation.
“Reforestation is the establishment of trees in what used to be a forest, but has been degraded either by nature or human means. So the wildfires we had last summer for example,” said Dr. Anna Sher, plant ecologist and professor in the Department of Biological Science at the University of Denver.
2020 was an active year for fires. Australia dealt with record-breaking brush fires and the United States broke its own record, with over 10 million acres burned, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
Doctor Sher said wildfires are normal, but they’re getting more intense and frequent.
“We are seeing an increase in these fires worldwide, likely as a consequence of climate change. We are seeing warmer, dryer seasons that make these forests vulnerable,” Sher said.
That’s where reforestation and an increasing use of drones comes in.
“We are a global reforestation project that combines precision drone technology with the knowledge of environmental experts, scientists, engineers and indigenous communities to replant seeds and grow new ecosystems,” Maudous said.
He founded Lord of the Trees, a drone reforestation company. His goal is to replant trees at a faster rate.
“One of our drones can plant 160,000 seed pods in a day, compared to only 800 seedlings planted by hand,” he explained.
After research is done, drone operators go into a project area, load seed pods of various species onto a drone, and fly them over the intended area to drop.
“We are using military drones,” he said.
Maudous said it’s more effective. While one person can plant a football field worth of seedlings a day, a drone can cover five football fields of land. And they’re not just used for areas scorched by wildfires. The process of reforestation is being done around the world.
“Planting a billion trees across the world is one of the biggest and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere to tackle our climate crisis,” he said.
“Forests are one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet,” Sher said. “We’re seeing football fields disappearing every day of forest in various parts of the world.”
These drones are one more tool being developed by companies like Lord of the Trees to help plant seeds faster, in hopes of restoring and preserving the environment.