Drones and Reforestation

Reforestation vs Deforestation.

“The Amazon rain forest — the lungs which produce 20% of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” tweeted French President Emanuel Macron at the G7 in 2019.

‘Slash and burn’ deforestation is creating havoc to earth’s natural forest resources.



Major forest countries across the globe have been battling with deforestation.

Deforestation in major forest countries


Many of these countries have rainforests which act as huge carbon dioxide sinks globally.


Amazon Rain forests

Currently the Amazon rainforest wildfires season is seeing a large number of fires attracting a lot of attention internationally.

The Amazon area is contained within the countries of Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Peru.

Slash-and-burn methods are used to clear the forest to make way for agriculture, livestock, logging, and mining, leading to deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Such activity is generally illegal within these nations and fingers are pointed at authorities’ lack of will. This has led to international concern about the fate of the Amazon rainforest, which is the world’s largest carbon dioxide sink and plays a significant role in global climate change.



The nation of Malaysia who, along with their other main land, also share a part of the island of Borneo with Indonesia, suffers from a high rate of deforestation. Other than tropical rainforests Malaysia also has peat swamp forests, both of which feature diverse ecosystems threatened by deforestation which also threatens a number of endangered species, such as the orangutan, which lives only on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.


Oil Palm Plantations

The rapid expansion of oil palm plantations has led deforestation to skyrocket in Malaysia and Indonesia and have become the leading threat to biodiversity across Southeast Asia. Palm oil is an ingredient in numerous products from foods to cosmetics, and even as a biofuel.


Oil palm growers have cut massive swaths of natural forest to make room for oil palm plantations, replacing the diverse natural ecosystem with a monoculture crop. Both Indonesia and Malaysia remain the world’s top producers of palm oil and which comes at the expense of their forests.

Also read: https://www.airbornedrones.co/drones-stop-palm-oil-deforestation-rain-forests/


Logging and Mining

Both illegal logging and mining contribute to the degradation of Malaysia’s natural forests and remain a serious threat to the island of Borneo.


Forest Fires

Multiple factors can cause deforestation and one may stem from another. Forest fires act as a driver of deforestation in Malaysia, but these fires frequently stem from human activities such as clearing land for oil palm plantations and other slash-and-burn agriculture. Fires have been particularly devastating for Malaysia’s peat swamp forests, penetrating the built up layers of peat below the surface.



In some areas of Malaysia, the creation facilities such as resorts for tourism has led to deforestation as well.




Exploitation of rare hardwoods.

The deforestation process in Madagascar has started long ago and even accelerated since the end of the 19th century with the French colonization and conversion to coffee fields. The country has lost about 80% of its original forests and the primary forest now covers only about 12% of the country.

By 1985, only 50 percent of the 7.6 million hectares that existed in 1950 remained. By 2005 the country had seen a total of 854,000 hectares of forest lost since 1990.

Loss of forest cover in Madagascar



Consisting mainly of Rosewood and Ebony, the original Madagascar forests were often logged illegally for these expensive and rare hardwoods and now have to be replenished.



Globally 15 billion trees are lost per year due to de-forestation. Traditional methods of re-forestation requires growing seedlings in controlled environment, transporting them via specialised  logistics and slow and expensive manual planting techniques.

Globally the pace of deforestation is outpacing attempts to counter it and clearly a different MORE DISRUPTIVE, INNOVATIVE APPROACH TO REFORESTATION IS REQUIRED.

Some species even had survival rates nearly identical to hand planting.


Drone vs Manual reforestation methods.

Globally 14bn forest trees are lost to various forms of deforestation. As depicted in the graphic below it would require 24,000 people to replant a 33% of the deforestation, or 48,000 people to replant 66% of the deforestation manually. In contrast 24 drone teams can replat 33%, or 48 drone teams can replant 66% of deforestation automatically.


Reforestation vs Deforestation rates


Reforestation Process

Airborne Drones recommends  the following best practice approach to replanting forests which include this 4-step process:

Reforestation proces


1. Pre-planting survey

Prior to planting data on ecosystems in the target geographical areas are captured and analysed to better able to monitor them and make decisions about how to manage planting and maintenance activities.


2. Analysis

Using an analytics platform the captured data is analysed top arrive at the optimal replanting strategy. This will ensure that the specifics of the local geolocation is accounted for, such as altitude, and biodiversity.


3. Flight programming

Planting patterns can be automatically generated to match native species to specific areas. This can be extended to include herbicide and fertiliser application. This will also ensure that maximum advantage is taken of available flight time.


4. Seedpod planting

The seed pods are fully biodegradable, designed to ensure seed penetration to minimise negative impact on germination and can carry multiple seeds and sizes.


Subsequent to above steps would be regular maintenance and supplementary reforestation that would be ongoing operations.


Operational drone-based seed planting statistics


The planting rate of a drone will depend at the speed at which the seed cannister can dispense seeds and the distance required planted pods as determined by the species of trees.

Seed planting with drones


For example:

The planting requirements of Rosewood trees which require 25m2each and the speed at which the seed pod cannister dispenses seed pods (see graphic) the following reforestation statistics are salient for a single drone:


·       Max speed (2 seeds/sec in 25m2 sections):       – 36 km/h

·       2 seeds/sec x 60secs x 60mins =                         – 7200 seeds p/h

·       7200 seeds x 25sqm =                                            – 18 ha p/h

·       400 seeds per ha:                                                    – 2.66 cannisters @150 seeds p/ cannister

·       Drone transition time:                                           – 7 minutes p/flight

(23%/30min,11%/60min flight)

·       6 hours flight time per day:                               – 108 ha p/ day



The above statistics are based on simple assumptions and can vary greatly based on a variety of factors. At 50% of above statistics 6 drones should be able to serve about 6000 ha, or 2,4 million seeds per month.


Clearly, global problems need global sized solutions that only innovative use of technology can bring