How drones are helping combat deforestation

How drones are helping combat deforestation

A British company has come up with a unique hi-tech plan to help combat deforestation.

Instead of spending hours planting trees by hand, BioCarbon Engineering wants to use drones.

"Our technology is making it easier for ecosystem restoration groups, mining companies and forestry groups, both private and public, to plant the trees, where they need them, at a fraction of the time and cost," said founder and ex-NASA engineer Lauren Fletcher.

The plan works in two stages. First, the drones fly above an area and map its level of deforestation. Then they fly out on a pre-determined planting pattern and at one or two metres off the ground, they fire seed pods into the soil.

The seed pods, filled with nutritious hydrogel to reduce the force of the seed's impact with the soil, break open upon impact, allowing the germinated seeds to grow.

A farmer can plant 3000 seeds a day by hand, but BioCarbon says one drone can plant 10 seeds a minute, with a small fleet over an area able to plant 36,000 trees in a single day.

This would go a long way to fulfilling the UN Climate Summit's commitment to restore 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030.

Every year more than 150,000 square kilometres of forest are lost, totalling a whopping 26 billion trees.

That's the equivalent of 48 football fields a day.

If deforestation continues at this rate, Earth's rainforests could be gone within the next 100 years.

The drones will be used in some of the worst-affected areas like the Amazon and South Africa, but in New Zealand the Department of Conservation says the focus remains on natural regeneration.