Tree-Planting Drones Could Help Save The Planet's Forests

They can plant a lot faster than humans.

A successful tree-planting campaign in Myanmar could signal one company's potential to help restore the planet's forests and slow the growing impact of climate change.

Biocarbon Engineering, a startup that makes tree-planting drones, says its successful planting campaign in Yangon, Myanmar last year means they are ready to accelerate their planting and try to repeat the success elsewhere, as reported by Fast Company.

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

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In Myanmar, the Worldview International Foundation has helped plant six million trees since 2012 by hand. In order to restore the 350 hectares of forest that has been lost, they will need to plant about one billion trees, according to Fast Company. With two operators running 10 drones, they expect to be able to plant 400,000 trees a day. 

The Biocarbon Engineering drones work by scanning an area, collecting data on the soil and using that data to determine where an effective planting location would be. Then the drones fire biodegradable seed pods into the ground that are filled with the appropriate seeds and nutrients, according to Biocarbon Engineering's website. In Myanmar, the drones planted mangroves that are now 20 inches tall.

Mangroves, in particular, are a big focus for Biocarbon Engineering. 15 billion trees are cut down every year, according to the World Economic Forum, and half of the mangrove forest's on planet Earth have been destroyed. Without those trees, which naturally absorb CO2, one 2018 study says there is an extra 24 million tons of CO2 emissions each year. 

According to TechSpot, Biocarbon Engineering is hoping to plant half a trillion trees over the next thirty years. 

"The project in Myanmar is all about community development and enabling people to care for trees, providing them with jobs, and making environmental restoration in a way that it's profitable for people," Fedorenko said. "The forest didn't vanish by itself—the forest was cut down by local people."

Cover image via Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock.

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