This post originally appeared on Droneblog.
[Editor’s Note: BioCarbon was founded by a former NASA engineer, Lauren Fletcher.]
Deforestation downs 10 billion trees around the globe annually. Replanting trees by hand is slow, expensive, and barely puts a dent in reversing the damage. But one startup wants to use drones that can reforest our increasingly tree-strapped Earth, on a big enough scale to replace slow and expensive hired humans.
The small company, called BioCarbon Engineering, says unmanned aerial vehicles are a great way of covering ravaged woodlands with seedlings that can repopulate the area’s tree population. Around the world, forests and jungles are still being leveled due to lumber overproduction, strip surface mining, urban expansion, and land use for agriculture.
But UK-based BioCarbon, founded by former NASA engineer Lauren Fletcher, has a plan: Use fixed-wing drones to map the topography of the land, as well as the nutrients and biodiversity. That info is put into a machine-learning algorithm to generate a “precision planting platform,” says Susan Graham, head of engineering at BioCarbon.
Last week, the team presented at United Nations Headquarters in New York at the Solutions Summit as one of 14 winning startups that were invited to the conference, which brought together innovators that want to address the 70-year-old global body’s list of Sustainable Development Goals. Next, BioCarbon is eyeing expansion, and already has a commitment from a plantation in South Africa to plant trees.
Graham says trying out the service in many types of locations is key: If they can test in different conditions or environments, they’ll learn more about how to deal with different soils and species—not to mention cultures. Their ultimate goal is to plant a billion trees a year.