Humanity’s latest weapon in the fight against deforestation? Autonomous seed-bombing drones

BioCarbon drones
BioCarbon CEO Lauren Fletcher shows off their very first planting drone.
Ever since the industrial revolution, humanity been fighting an uphill battle against deforestation. Despite the best efforts of conservationists, the world either burns or cuts down about 10 billion more trees than it replants each year — a problem that has big implications for climate change.

Environmental organizations have been trying (and failing) to reverse this trend for decades, but UK-based outfit BioCarbon Engineering thinks it can succeed where others have failed. How? By enlisting an army of seed-bombing drones to autonomously replant trees faster than mere humans ever could.

“The only way we’re going to take on these age-old problems is with techniques that weren’t available to us before,” says CEO Lauren Fletcher. “By using this approach we can meet the scale of the problem out there.”

Fletcher envisions BioCarbon drones flying out above a logged area, using cameras to map out the level of deforestation. If a remote operator determines that the location is a good candidate for restoration, the drones would swoop down to just a few meters above the ground and fire a volley of seed pods into the Earth. These pods would be pre-germinated and covered in a nutrient-laden hydrogel, giving them a greater chance of successful growth.

This wildly ambitious plan isn’t without its fair share of flaws, but Fletcher remains optimistic. He estimates that a properly-equipped drone could plant at a rate of 10 seed pods per minute. With two operators manning multiple drones, he reckons it would be possible to plant up 36,000 trees in a day — for a fraction of what it costs to plant trees by hand. In all, UAV-seeding could be about 15 percent of the cost of traditional methods, he says.

BioCarbon has yet to implement its plan on a large scale, but it’s moving quickly to make it happen. The company’s prototype seed-bombing drone was recently featured in the UAE’s Drones for Good competition, and last year won BioCarbon a $1.25M award from the Skoll Foundation. If all goes as planned, the company expects to have a production-ready version of the drone by the end of this summer.

Emerging Tech

We tried a $500 electronic dab rig, and now we can’t go back to normal vaporizers

Induction heating is the future of cannabis vaporizers. Loto Labs wowed us with what likely is the best concentrate vaporizer on the market today. With a $500 price tag, it's expensive, but it should definitely be your next dab rig.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Web

Are you one of the billions who have watched these super-popular YouTube videos?

Viral videos can quickly garner millions upon millions of views, but even they fall well behind the view counts on the most watched YouTube videos ever. Those have been watched billions of times.
Emerging Tech

SeaBubbles’ new electric hydrofoil boat is the aquatic equivalent of a Tesla

What do you get if you combine a Tesla, a flying car, and a sleek boat? Probably something a bit like SeaBubbles, the French "flying" boat startup which offers a fresh spin on the hydrofoil.
Emerging Tech

Israel will launch world’s first privately funded moon mission tomorrow

This week will see the world's first privately funded lunar mission launch. Israel's first mission to the moon will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday, February 21.
Emerging Tech

FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters may not be the answer to health rejuvenation. That’s according to the FDA, which says such claims are dangerous junk science.
Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.