A scene of AI-powered drones planting trees in deforested areas, contributing to reforestation efforts.

What Is Another Way Drones Can Be Used for Reforestation?

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Reforestation has become a concern in forestry as stakeholders seek a shorter reforestation route during post-wildfire restoration.

So, what is another way drones can be used for reforestation?

Drones can boost reforestation in planting, spraying, irrigating, monitoring, investigating tree health, and more. They’re a more affordable and quick post-wildfire forest recovery tool.

Wildfire recovery requires immediate attention due to its significant impact on the climate. Hotter and drier weather are some of the climatic changes increasing the chances of large-scale, destructive wildfires.

The fires have caused tremendous catastrophes in the Western U.S., Canada, Siberia, Turkey, Spain, Australia, and Greece, enhancing deforestation and carbon dioxide emissions.

This article explains how drones are promoting the recovery process of fire-destroyed forests.

Read on.

What Is Another Way Drones Can Be Used for Reforestation?

Below are the top 6 ways in which drones can aid reforestation during a post-wildfire restoration exercise:

  • Assessing deforested areas
  • Soil analysis
  • Seed planting
  • Plant counting and skiing
  • Irrigation management
  • Spraying 

Keep reading.

Assessing Deforested Areas:

Drones help assess wildfire-damaged forests by creating 3D maps and forest models. 3D mapping allows planners and authorities to get a realistic view of the affected forest section.

The maps provide the latest technical strategies for visualization and information acquisition. Thus, they help plan conservation methods, monitor forest cover changes, and evaluate the effectiveness of progressive conservation efforts. 

Monitoring forest cover changes in the affected area allows conservationists to develop the most effective conservation techniques for the specific situation.

The post-wildfire assessment may also include an air quality examination. Some drones have air quality sensors that monitor air composition changes in the deforested area. The examination’s results determine the conservation policies to implement.

Drone ding 3D mapping of a forest land.

Image Credit

 Soil Analysis:

Analyzing soil before planting seeds is crucial in ensuring reforestation success. Soils differ in composition, texture, pH, drainage, and fertility.

Thus, soil analysis in deforested areas helps to choose the appropriate tree species and prevent extreme salinity or acidity.

Forest authorities and conservationists use drones to collect soil samples, which help them identify nutrient-deficient areas. 

Soil analysis also includes measuring the pH level to implement standardization if it’s too low or too high. 

As a result, forest managers can make informed fertilization and irrigation decisions.

Drones that aid soil analysis can be fully automated with the relevant equipment, or have someone attach the soil samples to the drone.

Monash Engineering

Seed Planting:

After deforestation assessment and soil analysis, it’s time to distribute tree seeds in the burnt-up area.  

A drone with a mounted air gun can be an effective aerial seeding tool, distributing seeds on one hectare in less than 30 minutes. The job would require four people for six days using traditional tree-planting methods. 

Here are three seed-planting methods using drones:

  • Seed balls: Reforestation personnel roll seeds, nutrients, and clay into balls. The tedious task is essential to prevent predators from damaging the seed. They dry the balls for a week and spread them using a drone.
  • Naked seeds: It involves using drones to distribute uncovered seeds. Although it’s the cheapest method, it’s more vulnerable to predation, bird dispersal, rain drain, and growth failure due to nutrient inaccessibility. 
  • Seed square: Seeds are encased in a 1-inch square biodegradable carrier and spread in the area using a drone. The encasing material contains animal deterrents and cayenne pepper. 

Precision Reforestation:

The planting strategy improves productivity and minimizes environmental impact. 

Drones ensure tree planting in the most suitable locations for their thriving, improving reforestation efforts.

Drones with seed-planting capabilities disperse seeds with accuracy and precision in less time and at a lower labor cost.

After analyzing the planting area, the collected information helps generate coordinates for distributing seeds. That allows conservationists to disperse the seeds evenly and maintain a healthy plant distancing.

Upon programming the coordinates, a seed dispenser mounted on a drone drops a predetermined number of seeds at the strategically selected points (coordinates).

Further, AI analyzes the planting method’s effectiveness by monitoring seeds to assess their germination rate.

Note: The seeds undergo a special laboratory treatment to quicken germination when not buried and keep off predators.

Plant Counting and Sizing:

Drone plant counting and size assessment improve their health and yield. Hence, finding the optimal balance is essential.

A fastened drone is ideal for this purpose, as its high altitude provides a concrete stream of plant growth information and natural factors influencing their growth.

Irrigation Management:

Drones can monitor and manage irrigation systems to reduce water wastage and plant dehydration. Hygrometer-fitted drones and those with similar payloads monitor the planted area’s soil and air humidity levels.

The humidity data helps plan and improve irrigation that supports the plant’s development. It also helps avoid excess irrigation and soil destruction.

Strategic deployment of autonomous drone ports can provide fully automated irrigation management data collection. Such a drone can switch batteries and upload information.

Spraying:

Drones can spray the ground during preparations and the plants throughout their growing season. They carry and spray fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides precisely, with less labor costs and time.

Spraying drones deliver the necessary liquid chemicals to the needy section of the forested area. Drone configuration can allow them to perform smart spraying, differentiating weeds from plants and killing them without harming the young trees.

When paired with the correct data, a drone can effectively use half of the herbicides and pesticides used with the traditional spaying methods.

A heavier drone with a larger carrying capacity is ideal for spraying tasks. Though it has a shorter flight time, it’ll carry a lot of liquid. 

During preparations, a drone aids in spraying to eliminate hardwood and shrub vegetation before planting. 

DJI Agras T20 spraying pesticide on crops

What Are the Advantages of Using Drones in Reforestation?

The advantages of using drones in reforestation include the following:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Comprehensive analysis
  • Workforce and plantation resources utilization
  • Reduced cost of production
  • Systematic plant monitoring
  • Proper Irrigation and adequate spraying

Keep reading.

Increased Efficiency:

A drone allows rapid and improved seed dispensation. It can plant 20–100 times faster than a person, dispersing hundreds of tree seeds in a few minutes. 

One drone can serve up to 50 hectares daily, planting 180 seed pods per minute.

Comprehensive Analysis:

The drone technology captures crisp photos and footage. Additionally, drones have an upgraded imaging function that includes multispectral sensors. 

Thus, a drone can sense depth, lighting, temperature, and other relevant details to provide an accurate and comprehensive image analysis of the planting site.

Moreover, drones are more accessible to deploy than satellite imaging, which is sometimes unavailable due to limited orbit coverage patterns.

Workforce and Plantation Resources’ Maximum Utilization:

An increase in tree production requires more resources. However, the case is different with the drone technology. 

Drones eliminate the extra cost, as agriculturists can estimate how many planters they need. As a result, they maximize the workforce without hiring excess workers. 

Also, tree-planting drones can work in human-inaccessible areas, mountainsides, and contaminated soils. The technology ensures the planters’ safety and maximizes the planting site. 

Drone Planting Trees

Image Credit

Reduced Cost of Production:

Restoring wildfire-affected forests involve hefty expenses from the forestry industry (hiring planters and other resources). 

Drones are five times cheaper because of their planting speed, and they don’t need nursery structuring and maintenance.

One drone pilot’s work is significantly more than one planter’s work. Also, one drone can disperse different tree species, allowing quick planting of various types of trees at once.

On the contrary, a manual planter can only plant one seed type at a time. Hence, tree-planting using drone technology significantly reduces time and cost.

Systematic Plant Monitoring:

Drones have sensors that scan plants for possible infections and monitor plants to give visual growth updates. 

Hence, they can detect a potential problem—that can negatively affect production—allowing an early response before significant damage.

Proper Irrigation and Adequate Spraying:

The technology supports plant irrigation and chemical spraying as drones detect dry areas and plants requiring spraying. Thus, the forestry department can estimate and maximize resources.

Also, drones’ systemized chemical spraying reduces pollution and ensures the personnel’s safety from chemical harm.

Conclusion:

According to our research findings, there are various ways to use a drone in post-wildfire reforestation. 

These include deforested area assessment, soil analysis, seed-dispersing, plant counting and skiing, chemical spraying, and irrigation management.

Drone tree-planting technology has many benefits, such as production cost and time-saving, workforce and resource maximum utilization, and increased efficiency. Others include systematic monitoring, proper irrigation, and adequate spraying.

Even so, drone reforestation isn’t entirely independent. It partially requires human support to yield maximum yield. 

However, the technology hasn’t fully realized its potential. Drones can do more in the forestry industry with continuous sensing capability advancement.

FAQs

Will Drones Replace Humans in Reforestation?

No, drones won’t replace humans in reforestation, but complement them. Although drone technology has many advantages over traditional forest restoration solutions, some limitations may prevent them from working independently. One significant challenge is sensing incapability before reforestation starts.

What Can Drones Be Used For in Forestry?

Drones have various uses in the forestry industry, including data accumulation and processing.

The data entails the health status of trees, vegetation, and bushlands. Forest officials use drones to conduct topographic surveying, thermal imagery, and aerial mapping to identify needy plants and improve the prevailing conditions.

Why LiDAR for Reforestation?

LiDAR sensors capture incredibly accurate elevation data in dense forests. The sensors easily penetrate through thick vegetation. 

LiDAR can map digital elevation for topography purposes and document complex forest environment data, which authorities can use to identify individual tree species.

HAPPY FLYING!

Summary
Article Name
What Is Another Way Drones Can Be Used for Reforestation?
Description
We discussed many ways drones are used for reforestation.
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Remoteflyer Private Limited
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