Technology

Tree Plantation with Drones

Drones take humans a little closer to their dream of flying like a bird. One can argue that a plane literally flies a person but a drone helps humans to have a bird-like vision. Recent technological advancements in the field of drone technologies are quite promising and it is being used for way more than just photography and videography.

The drones are being used in many other fields such as military, safety and rescue mission in natural calamity hit areas, surveillance and now afforestation as well. Companies and governments all over the world are in a quest for afforesting huge areas of lands that will not only bring the pollution levels down but also create jobs in that sector.

Biocarbon Engineering is a UK based technology company that offers integrated analytics and planting solutions for large-scale ecosystem restoration projects. It is one of the pioneers in the field and has been quite successful recently. They have gained quite the popularity with their recent testing in Myanmar where they planted loads of Mangrove seeds. Over the past 10 months, a lot of those seeds turned into saplings and this is a great achievement for the company as well as the nation.

According to a report by TheCivilEngineer, the UK based company has a very systematic approach to the whole afforestation process. Mapping (to gather information about the area to be seeded), using drones that fly over a potential planting zone is the first step of the entire process. It is then followed by creating/constructing the seedpods, which are biodegradable and designed to help the seed germinate. The appropriate seeding pattern for the terrain is selected where the mix of seeds are planted in the areas pre-determined by the mapping. The drones, flying at a height of 1 or 2 meters, fire the seed pods down to the ground. The pods break open upon impact, allowing the germinated seeds a chance to grow.

The seeds are then under constant monitoring to ensure that the trees are growing according to plan. Just the execution of a plan goes in vain if it is not monitored well. It has been observed in the past that huge plantation drives have failed just because of the lack of post-plantation monitoring processes. Moreover, the data collected in the whole process will enable the program to get smarter and more efficient over time. This is where intense data analysis and machine learning comes into play that helps analyse the data efficiently and effectively.

According to an Indiatimes report, the company already worked with the Myanmar Government in September last year to plant Mangrove seeds and over the past 10 months, many of those seeds have germinated to become saplings. This is not just a sign of success for the company but is a sign of success for the process.

Mr. Lauren Fletcher, CEO of Biocarbon Engineering is quite positive about his company’s approach when it comes to tackling climate change using technologies. He is an ex-NASA scientist who is using his technological expertise and business mind to bring about a positive change in the world. His aim is to plant over a billion trees each year starting with the regions heavily affected by afforestation.

India is one of the most popular countries on the face of the earth but recently it is grabbing the headlines for something not so good i.e. pollution. The country, especially its northern plains are facing heightened pollution levels, so much so that 13 of the world’s most polluted cities are in India. This is an issue that is not only harmful to the citizen but also for the country’s economy. Experts claim that heavy pollution affects the quality of work and life ultimately affecting the general well-being of the people and the businesses as well.

New Delhi, the capital city of the largest democracy in the world is almost always under scanner due to high air and water pollution. The situation worsens in the winter months when the city chokes on heavy smog. Numerous methods have been tried and tested in the city that brought minor relief but were not very efficient and sustainable. This is where the thought of afforestation with the help of drones come in.

Bharat Vikas Parishad, an NGO is working with Government of Haryana and Municipal Corporation Gurugram and Biocarbon Engineering in an attempt to plant a massive 1.5 crore or 15 million trees in the state. Gurugram is a sister city adjoined to the National Capital New Delhi and it falls in the National Capital Region (NCR). It is being said that planting millions of trees in the city will reduce the pollution levels drastically. Moreover, it will also generate employment in Haryana’s Faridabad and Gurugram where the plantation drive will be carried out.

The best part of the whole plan is its cost-efficiency. According to the NGO, a total of ₹1lakh or $100,000 will be spent for the plantation of 15 million trees. This is also a less labour-intensive method and more of a technology-intensive method. Only two people can plan around 400,000 trees using 10 drones in just one day.

The tree seeds in consideration are Sheesham, Banyan, Jamun, etc. They will be planted by drones that will fly at 40-50ft above the ground shooting the seedpods into the ground. According to the NGO, even a mere 5% germination rate will mean a massive 7 Lakh or 700,000 new trees in the state. This will definitely have a positive impact on the region. Earlier the use of seed-filled balloons was proposed but due to its inefficiency in spreading the seeds, the plan was changed and drones were brought in.

Despite the seemingly flawless plan, ecologists are divided over the topic. The use of drones is a widely contested topic and it has its fair share of doubters as well. However, the point to be noted is that there is an attempt. This is important as people tend to find flaws in others especially when someone is trying to do good for humanity. The plan might not be full-proof and the best suited but it is a trial. ‘Practice makes a man perfect’; in this case, the state, the NGO, the company and India as a country will eventually get more efficient with time, given it gets the opportunities and the right growth environment just like the trees.

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