How are drones helping to plant trees?

Communities all throughout the world are fighting for restored tree cover. Concerns over the loss of biodiversity and efforts to slow global warming are driving the increase in interest in forests. Unfortunately, high costs in underdeveloped economies and a lack of political will in affluent ones continue to hamper reforestation efforts. Fortunately, innovative startups all around the world are stepping up and using drone reforestation to significantly reduce replanting costs.

The Advantages of Forests 

Along with the more obvious benefits of increased forest cover, such as enhanced biodiversity and organic carbon sequestration, disadvantaged communities also benefit greatly from it. For instance, higher local water quality is associated with more trees. Forests also help to improve soil health and slow down or stop desertification, a critical problem in developing countries. The need for fertilizer is reduced by improved soil health, enhancing the profit margins for farmers in developing nations.

New Drone Technology 

New Drone Technology 

Drones are unmanned aircraft that are flown and controlled from the ground and come in a variety of sizes. They are only one of the many cutting-edge technologies that scientists and governments are actively utilizing to combat climate change. The goal of many of the innovative start-ups promoting this technology is to apply it to undeveloped parts of the world.

Drone Seeding


Drone seeding may speed up the establishment of new forests, replace areas that have been cleared for logging, reseed areas that have burnt more quickly, and access inaccessible locations, all of which may contribute to global cooling. The creation of drones that can quickly plant seeds from the air has not hindered the capacity of several budding start-ups to acquire finance. Numerous of these businesses make eye-catching claims that they will plant one billion trees or more in the next ten years.

The seed must first be retrieved, cleaned, and processed by trained humans before aerial seeding can start. Different pretreatments may be required for the seeds of different species to germinate correctly. Some require two bouts of sub-zero temperatures followed by warming to spring-like circumstances; others won’t sprout until they have survived a forest fire or have passed through the intestines of an animal or bird.

Pre-treated seeds must be encased in a defense mechanism to withstand being pneumatically discharged into the ground from a height by a drone. Gel packs or clay pellets are frequently used to envelope the seed. Some companies put chili in the capsule to make it uncomfortable for foragers who are good at obtaining food, such as squirrels, or for flying birds who may swiftly destroy the possibility of the seed ever developing.

Heavy-lift payload drones are employed for the planting process because they can carry a sizable payload of pre-primed encapsulated seeds—which may also include pre-germinated seeds—as well as an initial fertilizer package to encourage early growth. These UAVs may fly in swarms under the direction of a few knowledgeable pilots to transport seed pucks to the planting site. 

As part of the aftercare procedure, drones with pesticide tanks attached can be used to pull weeds and grasses that could outgrow the growing tree seedling or to apply liquid fertilizer to help the young trees grow and establish. In the months and years that follow the initial planting, drones equipped with cameras are necessary to track the subsequent germination success and survival rates.

The standardization and modularization of the drones themselves are essential to gaining wider adoption of drone planting. The majority of enterprises currently use a variety of drones for every stage of the process. Landowners are far more inclined to invest in the technology if the same drones can be used for each stage, exactly like they would with a tractor, which they would equip with different add-ons for seed drilling, plowing, harvesting, etc.

Utilizing mobile mapping technology with lidar, the initial surveys are conducted. The results of the initial surveys are entered into algorithms that examine hydrology, slope, soil conditions, and underlying geology in order to determine the best locations for planting or replanting. This procedure produces a path map for a planting grid that the seeding drones will adhere to. 

The availability of high-quality tree seeds may be a major limiting issue in our ability to increase the amount of forest cover on the earth, not the status of drone technology.

Requirements before drones can plant trees 

Requirements before drones can plant trees

There are various processes in a drone-based tree plantation.

Drone quality and size 

There are many smaller drones on the market that can be used for video shoots, but lifting objects might not be to their liking. The construction of drone should be sturdy enough to lift a lot of seeds for growing trees.

Capability to map the area

Drones must identify the locations where they can drop the seeds using machine learning methods, 3D imaging, etc.

Protecting the Seeds 

When someone plants a tree, they make sure to bury the seeds deep in the ground to protect them from animals and birds. Employing a protective nutritional coating that acts as a safe shell is strongly advocated in the case of drones.

Businesses that Use Drones to Plant Trees

1. DroneSeed 

A Seattle-based company established in 2016, provides drones to combat the issue of deforestation by working with nursery managers, forestry experts, lumber companies, etc. In a single flight, each drone can disperse seeds across an area of around 3/4 acres. [1]

2. Flash Forest 

Drones from the Canadian start-up map the area where the trees will be planted before choosing the optimum location based on the soil and surrounding vegetation. The seeds can then be dropped into the designated locations by drones. Currently, the business can plant 10K to 20K seed pods each day. The company, which was created in 2019, has already carried out plantation efforts in Hawaii and plans to plant 1 billion trees by 2028. [2]

3. Dronecoria

This Spanish start-up plants trees using drones and has also created a set of open-source tools for widespread, reasonably priced regeneration via aerial sowing of seed balls. The platform provides automated seed processing and drone-powered replanting. The 2017-founded company Dronecoria is working to standardize the reforestation procedure, create the necessary equipment, and document the process in order to make it broadly available. [3]


There are still woods on about 30% of the planet’s surface, but they are disappearing at an alarming rate. The World Bank estimates that between 1990 and 2016, a region the size of South Africa lost 502,000 square miles (1.3 million square kilometers) of a forest. 46% of trees are believed to have fallen since humans started destroying forests, according to a 2015 study that appeared in the journal Nature. About 17 percent of the Amazonian rainforest’s acreage has been lost during the previous 50 years, and the rate of loss has recently accelerated. 

Given the extent of the damage, we need hundreds of companies, people, and organizations to step up, employ technology, launch these aerial vehicles, and restore the earth’s natural greenness.