Northern California's Camp Fire was the deadliest to hit the U.S. in the past century, and while we can never replace the human lives lost, we do have the opportunity to restore the forests consumed by the blaze.
Unfortunately, planting trees are not as easy as Johnny Appleseed made it seem – it's a dirty, dangerous job that requires a high level of intelligence.
That's why a Seattle-based startup has come up with a high-tech solution to the problem of planting seeds in areas devastated by wildfires – and it involves a combination of drones, artificial intelligence, and bioengineering.
Let a Drone Do It
Every year, wildfires in the U.S. burn a average of 7 million acres, and our current method of replacing lost trees is not exactly ideal. "Even at the most sophisticated companies in the world, planters are superheroes that use bags and a shovel to plant trees," entrepreneur Grant Canary told TechCrunch.
That's why he founded DroneSeed in 2015. The company has developed the drones capable of both planting and planting them – two tasks previously carried by humans.
The drone uses a new map of an area and a multispectral camera to gather details about its soil and vegetation. From that data, an AI model determines the ideal spot to plant a new tree.
The drones do not just throw the seeds at the ground, though – DroneSeed has developed special "seed vessels." These are small pucks of nutrients with their center and a dusting of capsaicin on their exterior to deter animals from eating them.
DroneSeed is the first company to receive a multi-craft, over-55-pound unmanned aerial vehicle license from the Federal Aviation Administration. That means its drones can work in swarms of up to five crafts to cover larger areas.