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Swarms of Drones Can Now Plant Trees in Areas Devastated by Fires

Growing Pains

Northern California's Camp Fire was the deadliest hit to U.S. In the past century, and while we can never replace the lost human lives, we have the opportunity to restore the fires that consumed the forest.

Unfortunately, planting trees is not nearly as easy as Johnny Appleseed made it seem – it's a dirty, dangerous job that requires a high level of intelligence.

That's why Seattle-based startup has come up with a high-tech solution to the problem of planting seeds in areas devastated by wildfires – and it involves a combination of drones, artificial intelligence and bioengineering.

Let a Drone Do It

Every year, wildfires in the U.S. burn an average of 7 million acres, and our current method of replacing lost trees is not exactly ideal. "Even in the most sophisticated companies in the world, planters are superheroes that use bags and shovel to plant trees," entrepreneur Grant Canary told TechCrunch.

That's why he founded DroneSeed in 2015. The company has developed drones capable of both deciding where to plant seeds and actually planting them – two tasks previously performed by humans.

The drone uses the lidar to create a 3D map of the area and a multispectral camera to gather details about its soil and vegetation. From that data, an AI model determines the ideal spot for planting a new tree.

The drones do not simply throw seeds at the ground, though – DroneSeed has developed special "seed vessels." These are small packs of nutrients with a seed at their center and dusting of capsaicin on their exterior to prevent animals from eating them.

Team Effort

DroneSeed is the first company to receive a multi-craft, over-55-pound unmanned aerial vehicle license from the Federal Aviation Administration. That means its drones can work in swarms of up to five crafts to cover larger areas.

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