Flash Forest Drones To Plant One Billion Trees By 2028
Our forests are being destroyed at a dangerous rate, with scientists warning that the world’s tree population needs replenishing, fast. The problem is, we can’t seem to do it fast enough.
Canadian startup Flash Forest thinks it has a solution: it’s using drones to plant trees.
One of a few companies trialling the use of tree-planting drones, Flash Forest has been using the autonomous flying planters to fire seed pods – more catchily known as ‘seed bombs’ – into an area of forestland just north of Toronto that had been badly burned by wildfire.
The company, which launched in 2019, managed to plant 40,000 trees in the space of a month this past spring, and it doesn’t plan on stopping there. Flash Forest says it is set to plant hundreds of thousands of trees by the end of this year, and, as they move into other regions, they’re targeting a massive one billion trees by 2028.
It’s hard to overstate just how many trees experts think we need to plant to combat the effects of deforestation. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1 billion hectares of additional trees – that’s the equivalent of an area roughly the size of the entire United States – are needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. At the moment, the Earth is currently losing a net 7 billion trees every year.
And while drones can’t stop trees being cut down, they can massively speed up the rate at which we can plant new ones. Flash Forest says its drones can currently plant 10,000-20,000 seed pods a day, and in the future two pilots could be able to plant up to 100,000. For comparison, human tree planters could realistically aim to plant around 1,500 trees per day.
Angelique Ahlstrom, Flash Forest’s co-founder, told Fast Company:
I think that drones are absolutely necessary to hit the kind of targets that we’re saying are necessary to achieve some of our carbon sequestration goals as a global society. When you look at the potential for drones, we plant 10 times faster than humans.
The startup uses mapping drones to survey the land and identify the best places to plant, before a friendly swarm of drones begins dropping seed pods on the area. Some drones have pneumatic firing devices, enabling them to plant in earth that would usually be difficult for humans to access.
Flash Forest’s first pilot planting programs took place at two sites in Canada, but they have other pilots planned in locations including Hawaii, Australia, Malaysia and Colombia.
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