Using Drones to Plant 1 Billion Trees Per Year


Since their introduction to our war-torn modern world, drones were quickly associated with death, destruction and intrusive surveillance. That is not where the legacy of this technology stops…not according to Lauren Fletcher of the new drone start-up, BioCarbon Engineering.

As our planet heats up due to climate change, we are not reacting fast enough to slow the devastation that we as humans have caused.  We continue leave a trail of pollution wherever we go, and literally mow down our oxygen supplying trees faster than we can plant them.  At our current pace, we are cutting down over 26 billion trees a year globally.  In a sad and lack-luster attempt to be responsible, we only plant approximately 15 billion trees a year globally…11 billion short of what is necessary for our own survival.

“Changing the world…1 billion trees at a time” – BioCarbon Engineering

One of the biggest challenges for reforestation was the expense and time required for the manual labor of planting one tree at time.  When contemplating the challenges of this dilemma, former NASA engineer Lauren Fletcher had an “a-ha” moment that may in fact relieve the impending doom of climate change.  Yes, that sounds a bit over dramatic, but the implications for this are truly on that big of a scale.  With the use of the quickly improving drone technology, we are now able to plant trees with greater efficiency then ever thought possible.

This is how it works:

      • BioCarbon’s drones do a fly-over of the deforested area and map the area to provide feedback
      • BioCarbon determines the reforestation potential based on the data collected by the surveillance drone
      • Pre-germinated seeds are coated in a hydrogel of nutrients to increase the probability of successful “in-ground germination”
      • The seeds are loaded into the drones and prepared to take flight
      • The drone flies at a height of 2-3 meters over the pre-mapped area while firing the seed pods at a velocity high enough to sink them into the soil.

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Each drone is capable of planting up to 10 seeds per minute.  At BioCarbon’s current level of operation, they believe they can get 36,000 seeds into the ground every day…at a cost of about 15% of traditional replanting methods. The UK based company is drawing attention with this prototype and with their ambitious expectations for using drone technology to make this planet more habitable.  BioCarbon was recently featured in the drones for good competition that takes place in the United Arab Emirates.  BioCarbon plans to be move from the testing and prototype phase to actively combating global deforestation by the end of summer 2015.

This is not just our favorite story of the year, but possibly one of the most inspirational and hopeful stories we have ever written about.  Being constantly surrounded by awful news of environmental irresponsibility such as fracking and pipelines, companies like BioCarbon give us a little more reason to smile in 2015.  Using a technology that is almost always associated with war and repurposing it  for global good is a model that other start-ups should take notice of.

Surveillance drones map the area and determine the best seed drop pattern

Surveillance drones map the area and determine the best seed drop pattern



Drone loaded with pre-coated seeds flies over the previously mapped deforested area


As the drone fires the seeds into the soil, the protective coating opens up allowing for successful germination

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