Seattle-based DroneSeed uses sUAS to reforest areas devastated by wildfires. Their 8-foot-span drones fly in groups of up to five drones, using preprogammed routes and dropping “seed vessels” into areas where they have the best chance of growing back. Each sUAS can carry as much as 57 pounds of seed vessels. DroneSeed CEO Grant Canary told CNN Business, “We are six times faster than a tree planter out there with a shovel who’s doing about two acres a day, and we’ve cut the supply chains [for getting new seeds in the ground] down from three years to three months.”
Earlier this year, DroneSeed received exemptions from the FAA to fly over and replant burned forests. The company is already restoring forests impacted by the August Complex Fire in California and Oregon’s Holiday Farm Fire, and is examining other fire-stricken areas up and down the West coast where its technology could be put to use.
DroneSeed’s seed vessels include fertilizers, nutrients and pest deterrents that help the seeds take root more effectively. “The vessel is a dry fiber, so it absorbs moisture. It’s soaking up and expanding,” Canary said. “So that helps it avoid desiccation or drying out, which is one of the biggest causes of seed mortality.” They also include pepper: “We want to be able to have the seed not get eaten, so … really super spicy pepper is one of the ingredients,” Canary added. “Squirrels eat it, they get the message and they’re like ‘no thank you.'”
DroneSeed claims it can grow upwards of 140 trees per acre based on trials in New Zealand and Washington state. “Now, with this fire season, we’ve got unprecedented demand,” Canary said.