They shoot trees, don’t they?
Here’s something you might not have known: According to a recent study, deforestation from logging, agricultural production, and other economic activities adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads.
Scientific American explains. “The reason that logging is so bad for the climate is that when trees are felled they release the carbon they are storing into the atmosphere, where it mingles with greenhouse gases from other sources and contributes to global warming accordingly. The upshot is that we should be doing as much to prevent deforestation as we are to increase fuel efficiency and reduce automobile usage.”
Australian engineer Dr. Susan Grahamis doing just that. Along with a team including a former NASA engineer, she is building a drone system that can scan the land, identify ideal spots for tree planting, and then fire germinated seeds directly into the soil.
The planet loses 15 billion trees every year. “Although we plant about nine billion trees every year,” explains Dr. Graham, “that leaves a net loss of six billion trees. The rate of replanting [by hand] is just too slow.”
Dr. Graham and BioCarbon Engineering’s CEO, ex-NASA scientist Lauren Fletcher, are developing the drone that they say will plant trees at 10 times the rate of hand-planting—and at 20 percent of the cost.
The process begins with a drone that maps a given area of land to create a 3D model. From that data, the scientists develop algorithms which allow them to make the best decisions about where to plant and how to manage an ecosystem.
The team recently tested a version of the planting drone—this one a seed-spreader rather than a seed-shooter—in New South Wales, Australia, where many abandoned mining sites are in need of rehabilitation. Among other benefits, the drone was able to plant on steep hills that a tractor could not safely reach.
And you thought drones were just flying cameras…
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