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Drones fire ‘seed missiles’ into ground, less than a year later, trees are 20 inches tall

10 drones can plant 400,000 trees in a day — enough to combat climate change in real time.

Drones fire ‘seed missiles’ into ground, less than a year later, trees are 20 inches tall
Drones are planting trees. | Photo: courtesy BioCarbon Engineering/WikiCommons

While technology has significantly contributed to climate change, it may soon be used to help offset the damage done to our planet since the Industrial Age.

In September 2018, a project in Myanmar used drones to launch “seed missiles" into remote areas where trees were not growing. Less than a year later, thousands of those seeds have grown into 20-inch mangrove saplings, showcasing how technology can innovate solutions to the climate crisis.

“We now have a case confirmed of what species we can plant and in what conditions," Irina Fedorenko, co-founder of Biocarbon Engineering, told Fast Company. “We are now ready to scale up our planting and replicate this success."

According to Fedorenko, just two operators could deploy a fleet of drones capable of planting 400,000 trees a day, making significant progress in combating climate change.

The drones, designed by an ex-NASA engineer, aim to reseed an area in Myanmar the size of Rhode Island. Bremley Lyngdoh, founder and CEO of World Impact, believes this could eventually lead to 1 billion new trees.

“Obviously, planting a billion trees will take a long time without the help of drones," Lyngdoh told Fast Company.

With this powerful new ally, they are making rapid progress. For context, it took the Worldview Foundation seven years to plant 6 million trees in Myanmar. With the drones, they aim to plant another 4 million by the end of 2019.

Myanmar is a great case study for the project. In addition to the available land for the drone project, the nation has been particularly hit by the early effects of climate change in recent years. Rising sea levels are having a measurable impact on the population. In addition to their ability to clear CO2 from the atmosphere, healthy trees can also help solidify the soil, which can reduce the kind of soil erosion that has been affecting local populations in Myanmar.

Going forward, technologies like seed-planting drones could help stem the tide of catastrophic climate change while our governments and societies work to change the habits of consumers and corporations that are driving the problem. Our endless hunger for new technology may be the driving force behind climate change and deforestation but it could also end up being the solution to a problem.

This article originally appeared on April 17, 2019.

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