Parrot-Backed Company’s UAV Aims to Battle Deforestation

BioCarbon Engineering is on a mission to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), remote sensing and machine learning to combat industrial-scale deforestation.

The company – based in Oxford, U.K., and founded in 2014 – says its founder, ex-NASA engineer Lauren Fletcher, and his team recognize that emerging technologies can be combined to enable rapid landscape reforestation and restoration. The company notes that the recent COP21 climate conference in Paris reaffirmed the need to take urgent action to reduce carbon in the atmosphere.

BioCarbon Engineering recently announced a seed round of investment from Paris-based drone technology company Parrot, which is joining existing investor Henri Seydoux, CEO of Parrot, and Yannick Levy, director of business development, will join BioCarbon Engineering’s board with an observer seat.

The Parrot financing will be used to accelerate the development of BioCarbon Engineering’s proprietary planting system. Under the first phase of the system, the UAV maps out terrain and creates a 3D map. Under the second phase, a planting UAV, via an automated flight path, drops seeds from a height of 1-2 meters.

According to the company’s description on YouTube, the UAV uses a pressurized can to provide the “necessary propulsive force” for putting the seed pod into the ground. Once it hits the ground, the pod breaks open and reveals a germinated seed.“Drones can reach areas where it has been impossible up until now to plant trees – which makes what BioCarbon Engineering does one of the greatest potential applications of drone technology,” says Levy.

Currently, says BioCarbon Engineering, over 6.5 billion trees are lost each year due to human activities and natural disasters, and at the Paris conference, a commitment was made to restore 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030 (estimated to require up to 300 billion trees to be planted).

Thus, says the company, it is clear that traditional planting techniques will need to be augmented in order for the world to achieve these targets.

Fletcher explains, “Our technology is making it easier for ecosystem restoration groups, mining companies and forestry groups, both private and public, to plant the trees where they need them at a fraction of the time and cost. It’s a big goal, and having Parrot’s in-depth market knowledge and global reach will be invaluable in helping us achieve it.”

In addition to the planting, the company says its systems gather highly detailed terrain data, which is being used by customers to help manage their land. The company is also planning to roll out post-planting audit capabilities.

Photo courtesy of BioCarbon Engineering via YouTube



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