This startup will use drones to map forests and plant trees at 1/10th of the usual cost

Summary

An Oregon startup is working on the development of drones that can plant and monitor trees on a large scale, using « precision forestry » and high technology to jumpstart reforestation efforts in previously logged areas. While the basic approach of DroneSeed isn’t a novel one, the company is looking to add a suite of forestry applications to its machines, with the intent of bringing « full lifecycle services » to forestry management, including mapping and monitoring, at a fraction of the cost of doing so manually.

13Sept.
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Mechanizing certain aspects of industry has brought huge advances in productivity and cost reductions, such as the assembly line for automobiles, or the tractor and harvesting machines for farming, but DroneSeed’s challenge is to apply similar automation to a decidedly different space – not acres of flat farmland, or the carefully engineered factory floor, but the hills, mountains, and valleys of the natural world. But with the advancements in sensor technology, GPS positioning, and drone components, this startup could help to bring forestry – a hugely underrated industry, in my opinion – into the 21st century.

According to MarketWatch, DroneSeed’s co-founder and CEO Grant Canary said that treeplanting laborers, who are responsible for planting some 1.5 billion trees each year in the US, are hard to find, not because the money isn’t there, but because it’s so physically demanding. « You have people who will turn down the jobs for lower paying easier work elsewhere. Not because they’re lazy, but because it’s so draining. It’s one of the hardest jobs on the planet. »

But by using specialty drones, this treeplanting (or replanting of trees that have been logged, as is usually the case) could be done in much less time, with much less effort, and at a fraction of the cost – perhaps as low as 1/10th of the current cost. However, DroneSeed is still in the R&D and testing phase, so the validity of that claim remains to be seen.

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