Dec 20, 2020

FAA gives approval for company to use swarms of drones to reforest burned areas

Posted by in categories: drones, mapping, robotics/AI

DroneSeed will be allowed to operates drones beyond visual line of sight.

DroneSeed, a company that uses fleets of drones to reforest areas burned in wildfires, received approval in October from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its heavy-lift drones to operate Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) and to expand its use of heavy-lift drone swarms to California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.

The FAA’s action allows DroneSeed to begin reforesting once a fire is contained and airspace is clear. Their aircraft drop seeds that are encapsulated in vessels consisting of four to six seeds, fertilizer, natural pest deterrents, and fibrous material which absorbs water and increases survivability.

The company has designed a system around a swarm of drones that can drop tree seeds in places where they have a decent chance of survival. First they survey the area with a drone using lidar and a multispectral camera to map the terrain and the vegetation. Software then identifies areas with invasive species or other plants the landowner wants to eliminate that could compete with the new trees. Then a drone can apply herbicide to only the patches that need it, rather than dumping pesticide over the entire landscape. The next step is to use artificial intelligence to sort through the mapping data to find areas where a dropped seed is most likely to germinate, in order to avoid, for example, rock, roads, and unburned locations. After the aircraft is launched, it operates autonomously flying a grid pattern with five drones.

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