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Build your own drone and help to reforest!

In a previous blog we already talked about the CO2 storage and oxygen that trees provide through photosynthesis. Each tree can absorb more than a ton of carbon in its lifetime and trees play a big role in efforts to slow climate change [1]. Unfortunately, large-scale deforestation remains a major problem, and forests are becoming increasingly scarce. Preventing this by planting new trees is a labor-intensive and lengthy process. However, in recent years more and more new technologies have been used in these efforts to speed up this process. Today we are going to talk about one of these: the use of drones for reforestation.

Lost forest

While the numbers promise improvement, deforestation and forest degradation are still happening at an alarming rate. This not only results in a decrease in CO2 storage capacity, but also contributes significantly to the ongoing loss of global biodiversity. About 10 million hectares of forest are still lost every year, compared to the 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s [2]. Reversing this trend and planting more trees can help the climate, but it's a huge undertaking. To reduce the carbon in the atmosphere by 25%, we would have to plant more than half a trillion trees! And that would only 'turn back' the carbon clock by 20 years [1].

Help from the air

Despite this, planting trees remains an important part of our climate response. Unfortunately, as we mentioned, reforestation is a laborious and lengthy process. But there is hope: in recent years, drone technology has developed very rapidly. So fast that legislation struggled to keep up. There are now various organizations that have specifically adapted these drones to be used for reforestation. An example of this is the open-source drone from DroneCoria: an 8-kilo drone in the shape of a hexacopter. Due to this shape, the drone remains stable during flight and can lift and spread no less than 10 kilos of seeds (that is about 100,000 seeds). Both the hardware and software are freely available and the DroneCoria team invites everyone to make their own and get started with reforestation. They even have a “recipe” for the seed bombs for you.

With the use of drones, reforestation can go much faster than if it is done by human hands. For example, with five drones the DroneCoria team can sow half a million trees within ten minutes! Moreover, drones can reach places where humans cannot. For example, in remote places or on very steep terrains, but especially just after forest fires where the heat of the smoldering ground is sometimes important for the germination of the seeds [3]. The wooden drone above may not be too suitable for this… Fortunately, there are already several organizations around the world that are committed to reforestation through drones, such as FlashForest and DroneSeed.

Sowing one tree does not make a forest

Reforestation by means of drones involves more than simply dropping thousands of seed bombs. It is a complex process in which technology is combined with ecological knowledge. It is a close collaboration of various specializations. Sowing large numbers of trees is one thing, but if they don't grow, it's of no use. It is important to understand the environment to be reforested. What is the composition of the soil? How many hours of sunshine does the area get? What are the best varieties to sow? But the animals that live in the area and how you protect the seeds against them are also important factors. For a simple explanation of how this all works and why trees are merely big CO2 vacuum cleaners, watch the video below by Mark Rober.

And remember: every little bit helps! Do you want to remove a bit of CO2 from the air yourself? Then you can of course build such a drone yourself (and show us!). Not so tech-savvy? Then simply plant one of our mini-CO2 vacuum cleaners.

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