Earth is home to three trillion trees, and even though humans plant nine billion trees per year, the earth loses 15 billion yearly. To combat deforestation, BioCarbon Engineering‘s Chief Technical Officer (CTO), Susan Graham developed a drone system that can scan the land, select ideal spots for planting trees and fire germinated seeds into the soil, getting to places impossible for humans to reach.


Graham poses with a planting drone. Dave Maguire / ABC News.

According to the team, planting by drones is 10 times faster than planting by hand and is 20% of the cost. “We’re firing at one [per] second, which means a pair of operators will be able to plant nearly 100,000 trees per day — 60 teams like this will get us to a billion trees a year,” says BioCarbon Engineering’s CEO Lauren Fletcher.

Fletcher’s team is testing the drone technology around the world. They have recently been drone-planting in the Australian country town, Dungog. Using the drones, they hovered over areas that were once home to coal mines and fired seeds in an effort to rehabilitate them. “Coal mines have an enormous amount of land that they need to restore, both on the active mine site, once they’ve recreated a land form, as well as their offset areas…around the mines,” says Graham.

BioCarbon Engineering isn’t the only company planting by drones – the technology has gained a worldwide interest by startups and tree-huggers. In 2016, an Oregon startup called DroneSeed started drone-seeding northwestern and southeastern regions of the U.S., and has shown interest in Canada and Brazil as well.

“Forests play a fundamental role in combating rural poverty, ensuring food security and providing people with livelihoods. And they deliver vital environmental services such as clean air and water, the conservation of biodiversity and combating climate change,” says UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva. According to the UN, deforestation and forest degradation cause 17% of the world’s carbon emissions, which is the second largest source after the energy sector.