Tree-Planting Drones

2016-06-28

Tree-Planting Drones
Beaverton, Oregon-based drone startup DroneSeed created a drone with a device that fires seeds into the ground using compressed air in an effort to reforest the Pacific Northwest, and eventually forests around the world.

The $200 billion forestry industry depends on manual labor to plant seeds in the ground, with work crews using shovels for the chore. One human worker typically can plant 800 seeds in a day, but DroneSeed predicts its device can plant 800 seeds per hour.

Each year, 1.5 billion trees are planted in the U.S., according to the Southeastern Lumber Manufacturers Association. Planting those trees by hand is arduous and dangerous, however.
Most workers on the ground in the U.S. are migrant labor, while in Canada it’s primarily seasonal workers and college students. Labor is still hard to find because the job is physically demanding. Workers have to move trees around the site, hauling trees like mountaineers in bags up hills in work that could mean a thousand back bends a day. One study says a day spent planting trees is equivalent to burning two times more calories than one would by running a marathon.

“A worker could have 3 birthday cakes and whatever Outback Steakhouse is making these days, and still have burned off more calories doing this work,” DroneSeed Chief Executive Grant Canary said.

Not surprisingly, a hard workout is not incentive to get people to do that kind of labor—and cash isnt enough incentive either.

You have people who will turn down the jobs for lower paying easier work elsewhere, he said. Not because theyre lazy, but because its so draining. Its one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

Logging has consistently been one of the most hazardous industries in the United States. In 2010, the logging industry employed 95,000 workers and accounted for 70 deaths, resulting in a fatality rate of 73.7 deaths per 100,000 workers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is 21 times higher than the overall fatality rate in the U.S.

DroneSeed Chief Executive Grant Canary says planting trees is one of the hardest jobs on the planet.

Canary would not comment on the cost of DroneSeeds offering, but says the service offers a significant reduction in cost to clients needing to plant trees.

While the agriculture industry has developed tractors and other machinery to automate difficult processes, the forestry industry has struggled to develop a similar technology due to harsh and uneven terrain. Drones could be the solution, as terrain is less of a concern.

DroneSeeds clients include Clean Water Services, a wastewater utility in parts of Oregon, which regularly plants trees to lower temperature of the waterways. It is also working to cover several million acres for one of the Northwests top five foresters and works internationally in Canada.

DroneSeed says its solution is good for the environment, worker safety and investors. DroneSeeds drones currently have a flight time of about 30 minutes; after changing batteries, the drones can cover an acre within 1.5 hours.

In the early 1900s, when the tractor came along, we saw 90% of Americans working on farms drop down to about 3%, Canary said. If we could have that same efficiency in planting trees, the cost could significantly be reduced.

Goldman Sachs estimated in a March 2016 report that agriculture would be the second-largest commercial application for drones behind construction. Farms are currently using drones to monitor crop health and identify potentially problematic areas in the field, often using mounted thermal cameras.

Forestry never made the list, but likely because no one realized the potential application of drones for planting seeds. Only one other startup is similarly working to replant trees with drones: U.K.-based startup BioCarbon Engineering, led by former NASA engineer Lauren Fletcher, plans to plant 1 billion trees a year using a similar technology.

The agricultural robot market is expected to grow to $16.3 billion by 2020 from $817 million in 2013, according to a 2015 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Research report. The agricultural drone market has the potential to generate an additional 100,000 jobs in the U.S. and $82 billion in economic activity between 2015 and 2025, according to the report.

There is so much parallel with what happened to precision agriculture and what is happening with us in the forestry industry with drones, Canary said. We see drones as forestrys tractor.



FAA Small Drone Rule Lets Unmanned Aircraft Soar

2017-09-11
FAA Small Drone Rule Lets Unmanned Aircraft Soar
A host of new users is changing the world of commercial aviation thanks in large part to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) small unmanned aircraft rule, Part 107 (PDF), which has now been in place for a year.

US Naval Research Lab Tests Stackable CICADA Microdrones Swarm

2017-08-22
US Naval Research Lab Tests Stackable CICADA Microdrones Swarm
The U.S. Naval Research Lab has been working on its CICADA (Close-In Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft) drones since at least 2011. The tiny drones are designed to be carried aloft by other aircraft and dropped, whereupon they’ll use GPS and little fins to glide to within 15 feet of their destination.

The Drone World Expo 2017 Interviews  Hector Ubiñas

2017-08-22
The Drone World Expo 2017 Interviews Hector Ubiñas
In the third of a series of interviews with key figures involved in the success of Drone World Expo, we talked to for Hector Ubiñas, Aviation Services Manager, San Diego Gas and Electric. Hector joined SDG&E in September 2016 and has been overseeing the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) program since starting with the company. In this role, Hector is responsible for the daily operations of the UAS program and continuing to develop new work methods for its application in the utility industry.

Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills

2017-04-25
Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
Aerial dogfighting began more than a century ago in the skies over Europe with propeller-driven fighter aircraft carried aloft on wings of fabric and wood. An event held recently in southern California could mark the beginning of a new chapter in this form of aerial combat.

13 Takeaways from The White House Workshop

2016-08-08
13 Takeaways from The White House Workshop
The White House launched a new effort Tuesday to help increase the use of drones and showcased how government agencies have become a proving ground for a wide array of new drone concepts and technologies.

New Report: Drones in Public Safety and First Responder Operations

2016-07-24
New Report: Drones in Public Safety and First Responder Operations
It may not seem like it, but drones are still in their infancy and only proving themselves through the rigorous testing done privately, commercially, and by state and federal government agencies. Despite the tangible benefits that drones can provide, the public has mixed sentiments about their use by law enforcement, firefighting, and search & rescue operations.

Drone World Expo  Exclusive Interviews  Mark Bathrick

2016-07-14
Drone World Expo Exclusive Interviews Mark Bathrick
We wanted to find out more about the team behind Drone World Expo – what makes them tick, what motivates them and what are the secrets behind the success of the event. We interviewed Advisory Board member Mark L. Bathrick who directs a nationwide aviation services business for the U.S Department of the Interior (DOI) overseeing the safe operation of over 1,200 contracted and government-owned manned and unmanned aircraft across a wide range of business applications.

Rwanda Readies Life-Saving Drone Delivery System

2016-07-03
Rwanda Readies Life-Saving Drone Delivery System
This summer, small autonomous airplanes will begin carrying life-saving blood to 20 hospitals and healthcare centers across Western Rwanda, Africa, in one of the first-of-its-kind drone-based delivery demonstrations.

FAA Finalizes Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

2016-06-21
FAA Finalizes Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has finalized the firstoperational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”), opening pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nations airspace. These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives.

Embry-Riddle Consumer Guide to sUAS for Novices

2016-06-17
Embry-Riddle Consumer Guide to sUAS for Novices
A research team at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Worldwide Campus has created the first-ever comprehensive consumer guide to small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for novice users–those individuals interested in purchasing their first small remote controlled or autonomous multi-rotor flying aircraft.


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