Drone technology has been aiding in environment conservation in multiple ways globally. Now drones are being employed to aid in replenishing natural green cover.
According to a press release Seattle-based DroneSeed and the Nature Conservancy Oregon are partnering towards conservation of the ecosystem and imperilled species, like the sage-grouse by using drone swarms to restore rangelands affected by invasive species and to re-seed native plants.
Swarms of up to five drones will enable group service in covering greater area faster despite difficult terrain. Pre identified areas best suited for plant growth called microsites will be targeted with precision seeding, using specialized software to aerially deploy seed vessels. DroneSeed is the first and only company approved by the FAA to operate with swarms of up to five aircraft weighing more than 55 lbs.
DroneSeed will aerially deploy its proprietary seed vessels and those developed by The Nature Conservancy and its partners using the DroneSeed’s heavy lift aircraft with a load bearing capacity of carrying 57 lbs. This will cover sufficient acreage and result in improved seed survival by reducing desiccation or ‘drying up,’ common to arid rangelands.
Restoration of sagebrush steppe habitat in the western U.S. is a significant challenge. More than 350 species of wildlife and rural ranching communities depend on this habitat. Invasive weeds and increasingly large and frequent wildfires pose major challenges. While federal and state governments, NGOs, and the ranching industry are rising to the challenge, the Nature Conservancy is working across the west to explore new ways to increase success and reduce costs.
Jay Kerby, Southeast Oregon Project Manager at The Nature Conservancy said, “Working with research partners, we have been testing a variety of high-tech solutions for restoration seeding. We’re excited with the new options that drones could provide, such as improved precision of mapping and seeding priority treatment areas. For this project, we’ll be mapping about 75 acres of sagebrush habitat with scattered weed patches. We are excited to work with DroneSeed to explore the possibilities.”
DroneSeed’s CEO and Founder Grant Canary said, “The Nature Conservancy is an ideal partner for us as we’re highly aligned on mission and are both engaged in developing and advancing technology solutions for conservation outcomes. Our objective with this project is to test and demonstrate that this innovative approach can achieve successful restoration faster and more efficiently than conventional methods.”
DroneSeed’s post-wildfire application was tested successfully during its first post-fire forestry project for one of the top five timber companies in the U.S. impacted by the Grave Creek Fire near Medford and burned over 7,000 acres. Opting to plant immediately with DroneSeed’s seed vessels helped reduce vegetation clearing costs incurred and avoid the two-year wait that conventional seedlings require to grow in greenhouses. DroneSeed has been operating since 2016 under contracts with three of the five largest timber companies in the U.S.
Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to environment conservation. It tackles climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable in almost 72 countries presently.