Flash Forest, a start-up based in Toronto, Canada, plans to use a fleet of heavy drones to plant 1 billion trees by 2028. In addition to the new sowing technology, the company intends to produce special seeds that germinate faster than usual. The goal is to quickly and cheaply plant forests in North America to counteract the climate crisis.
Flash Forest technology is based on two technologies. Firstly, instead of people, the heavy multicopters are used to fire the pods with seeds into the soil from a small air gun. Secondly, the nutrient-packed pods themselves are incubators. They contain pre-germinated seeds, fertilizers, and nutrients that will allow seeds to grow faster.
According to the Canadian company, this approach will increase the number of trees grown. The drones are capable of planting trees at just 50 cents per sapling – which is just one-fourth the cost of typical planting methods.
An average of eight different species of plants, typical of Canada, are currently used in the project, but any other can be placed in the pods. The exception is acorns and other large types of seeds. The drone flies along the optimal path with the help of drone mapping technology and shoots the pods to a fixed depth. Following the planting, the team will follow-up the process with a spraying drone to provide nitrogen and other nutrients to the seedlings, while monitoring the condition of the new forest for the first crucial year.
The technology developed by the company will allow sowing territories ten times faster (20,000 trees/drone/day) than in the traditional way. Representatives of Flash Forest argue that the method will eliminate the additional costs (by 80%) that are required to grow seedlings in the nursery for 12-24 months. The technology also reduces the injury rate for human tree planters (in fact, it avoids that entirely).