Using Drones to Offset the Damage We’ve Done to Our Planet by Planting 400,000 Trees a Day

By Stephanie Reid

In September 2018, a project in Myanmar used drones designed by an ex-NASA engineer to fire pre-germinated seed pods into remote areas of the country where trees were not growing. Less than a year later, thousands of those “seed missiles” have sprouted into 20-inch mangrove saplings. This offers exciting new evidence that drones can be used to bring back to life millions of acres of degraded landscapes. This will be a case study in how technology can be used to innovate our way out of the climate change crisis. 

“We now have a case confirmed of what species we can plant and in what conditions,” BioCarbon engineering co-founder Irina Fedorenko told Fast Company. “We are now ready to scale up our planting and replicate this success.”

Myanmar is a great case study for the project with a pressing need to reseed an area equal to the size of Rhode Island. In addition to the available land for the drone project, the nation has been particularly hit by the early effects of climate change in recent years. Rising sea levels are having a measurable impact on the population. In addition to their ability to clear CO2 from the atmosphere, healthy trees can also help solidify the soil, which can reduce the kind of soil erosion that has been affecting local populations in Myanmar.

Mangroves are so central for Mynamar for the protective role they make along the coast against cyclones and extreme weather and for creating good opportunities for fish populations to grow” 

Erik Solheim- Executive Director- UN Environment

Over the course of the last seven years, Worldview has worked with Myanmar communities to plant over 6 million trees – but now with the help of the drones, they hope to plant another 4 million trees by the end of the year. Representatives estimate that with two local workers trained to operate a fleet of ten drones could plant up to 400,000 trees per day. 

Going forward, technologies like seed-planting drones could help stem the tide of catastrophic climate change while our governments and societies work to change the habits of consumers and corporations that are driving the problem.

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