Using drones to restore forest cover

Drones helping with reforestry

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[Editor’s Note: The first step will be using drones to create 3-D maps of the area that will be reforested.]

Mangaluru-based Vikas Education Trust has devised a novel method to restore forest cover to match deforestation of an equal scale. It is planning to deploy drones to plant seedlings of different varieties in areas that have lost forest cover.

Trust chairman and former Minister Krishna J. Palemar conceived this idea inspired by BioCarbon Engineering, a United Kingdom-based start-up. Mr. Palemar always had a dream to plant one lakh plus trees, especially the rare ones of the Western Ghats species, and to ensure that the flora and fauna are safe.

A drone was unveiled on the Vikas campus here on the eve of World Environment Day on Saturday by Mr. Palemar. MLA C.T. Ravi and Mangaluru Krishi Vigyan Kendra chairman Shivashankar were present.

A release from the trust here stated that it is for the first time in India that a drone-based approach in planting seedlings is being introduced.

How it works

Drones are sent to fly over a potential planting zone, taking pictures that create 3-D maps of the area to be reforested. Then a seeding plan is created after analysing all the terrain data to best suit the region.

The drones, which are equipped with guidance and control software, carry pressurised canisters of seed pods with germinated seeds immersed in a nutrient-rich gel. Flying at a height of one or two metres, the drones follow the planting patterns, firing the biodegradable seed pods down to the ground. The pods break open upon impact, allowing the germinated seed a chance to take root

The project is custom-made by Mangaluru-based start-up, Dreamers Pvt. Ltd., at the Sahyadri College Incubation Centre.

Two teams

Mr. Palemar sees the project as an important tool for existing reforesting organisations to expand their approach. Though planting by hand is the right approach, Mr. Palemar says, in other instances, drones can be an effective tool for the right location at the right time.

He plans to implement the project with a team of two operators running seven or eight drones simultaneously in the near future. Planting at about 10 pods per minute will equate to roughly 36,000 trees per day for each team. The next set of drones would be designed to have solar-powered batteries and a capacity to fire more seed pods.


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