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Heroes

Plant a billion trees a year? This drone company's response: 'We can do that.'

We lose the equivalent of nearly a football field worth of forest every second.

Community leader Luiz Lopes gives a tour of illegal logging near his town in Brazil. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images.

Seriously.


We lose between 46,000-58,000 square miles of forest every year, according to the World Wildlife Fund. If you do the math, that's about 48 regulation football fields every minute.

Well over a billion people rely on forests for food and shelter. But unsustainable logging, clear-cutting, and other man-made activities are threatening our forests like never before.

The good news is that people are actively pushing back. There are major reforestation projects underway, and in some places, like Washington state in the U.S., logging companies are required to replant any areas they harvest. But a couple of workers or volunteers with shovels and backpacks just aren't going to beat fleets of chainsaws and bulldozers.

To save our forests, it's time to go high tech. Like, "flying aerial cannons" high tech.

[rebelmouse-image 19530526 dam="1" original_size="480x270" caption=""Hello!" GIF from Info Biocarbon/YouTube." expand=1]"Hello!" GIF from Info Biocarbon/YouTube.

One company, BioCarbon Engineering, wants to use flying drones to plant trees.

BioCarbon's system uses two drones. The first is shaped like a small airplane and reads the land, scanning for obstacles and picking out the best places to plant trees. The drone then feeds this information to a bulky helicopter-like drone that flies over the areas, firing pre-germinated seedlings into the soil.

Image from  Info Biocarbon/YouTube.

Their goal is to plant a billion trees a year. And they might be able to do it.

"We're firing at one a second, which means a pair of operators will be able to plant nearly 100,000 trees per day — 60 teams like this will get us to a billion trees a year," BioCarbon Engineering's CEO Lauren Fletcher told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

[rebelmouse-image 19530528 dam="1" original_size="750x391" caption="Image from Info Biocarbon/YouTube." expand=1]Image from Info Biocarbon/YouTube.

The system can work 10 times faster than human hands and is cheaper than hiring laborers, according to Dr. Susan Graham, the company's CTO. It can also reach places that'd be impossible for people to get to safely. For example, the company has been testing their drones over land abandoned by coal mines in Australia.

Now that tests are looking good, the company is currently accepting customer contracts.

We desperately need our forests, and this could help balance out human impact on the world.

Forests are a vital part of our planet and provide innumerable value to both individuals and humanity as a whole. They capture carbon and provide food and shelter to both people and animals. To fix deforestation, we should consider not only good old elbow grease and local efforts, but high tech approaches as well.

And I don't really see how you could get much more high-tech than this.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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