Disclaimer: I majored in Forest Mensuration, and did my engineering diploma in Forest Plantations.
I'd also be interrested in how these drones fare in different geography, I've manually planted a handful tens of thousands of trees in areas where you can't drive any vehicles - quite different from the rather large flat areas of Russia and Belarus.
I also manually planted lots of trees in different areas.
Yes, you are right, when area is inaccessible and only manual planting is possible - drones may become helpful. But with 9 ha/day output, I am afraid it is cheaper to use human labour.
It's a square with 110 trees to a side. A rough overestimate at 20ft spacing gives us a guess of less than a quarter of a square mile per day, or maybe 75 square miles of saplings planted per year.
For comparison, the U.S. has something on the order of 3-3/4 million square miles of forest.
The truth is that if you can drive a big tree planting tank there, you can also walk there. RPV delivered seeds seem like they would be useful for places that are not so easy to get to.
Also, and you may know this, forests are not trees; forests are biomes that rely on trees to support complex webs of interrelated life forms from a micro- to macroscopic scale. A giant, soviet era thing that plants saplings in bally great blocks sounds good on paper, but i wonder how well it actually works.
I probably should have worded my original query more specifically and in a manner that the HN pedants are more comfortable with. My apologies.
I am against industrial methods in anything, and this marginalizes me here in the West, and that is ok. People want to build money machines that crank out profit on a predictable schedule and that is fine in my book because i believe time will prove the error in that approach to living. If we want to get in the biology game, however, "crazy anarchists" and wierdos might have the upper hand in the idea arena, as trying to regiment everything, or even anything, in a massively complicated innately complex web of interaction that does not cease at any point is a fools errand.
...shit, i need a drone to come guide me back to my original point.
So, before i write this off as a complete waste of time, can you link me to any pictures or descriptions or even (gasp) books wherein i could learn about the PLA-1 or its successor, the PLA-1A? Cyrillic or english is fine.
To me, this is the key part of the proposal, if the technique scales:
"at around 15% of the cost of traditional methods."
Also ,why isn't robot use in reforestation more common ? 12-24k plantings/hour sounds fantastic.
So, I dunno. GP sounds like they know what they're talking about, but I would still like to see some references.
According to GP:
>> Chinese mainland reforestation programme plan was 4 mln ha/year 20 years ago.
>> So, drones can plant, say pine seedlings with density of 4 thousand/ha (which is IMHO insufficient), which gives capacity of just 9 ha/day
Suppose 180 working days a year that would give:
4 * 10^6 / (180 * 9/2) ~= 5000 operators
That doesn't actually sound too bad, not sure how many drones per operator are counted for in the 36,000 trees per 2 operators with multiple drone numbers.
One a side note this could still be well above the cost of human labor in third-world countries.
UPD: here is the video instruction for this process https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6MhT7dbB1c
Another common tool (in the US at least) is the Hoedad. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1gPVuITMgc
Disclaimer: my forestry education is only from farming school.
The sorts of areas that desperately need replanting are usually a wasteland to stumps, branches, brush, and lots of rocks.
Found: http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/old-milit... ("Old Military Planes Could Drop 900,000 Tree-Bombs a Day")
Although the buzzword here is "drones", it seems (to my amateur eyes) like a big part of the innovation is the pre-germinated tree pods.
So planes are out, the helicopters too (can't get that low with trees around, and way too expensive to fly anyway). Drones are definitely a very important part of it...
The pods will have a much larger terminal velocity, but I don't see how that would make it problematic to toss them from, say, 50 meters high. Attach a cheap piece of pulp paper (= easily bio-degradable) to the pods as an air brake, if needed.
I have my doubts as to its cost effectiveness, too. I can't find calculations on the project's site and I do not have data, either, but I would think those pods must be fairly expensive, or drones incredibly cheap, or places where trees can be planted must be extremely rare for this to be economically the best choice.
I did not claim dropping pods at random would give the same success rate; the thing I question is whether the investment needed to use these drones is more effective than, say, buying five times the number of pods and throwing them out of a plane (or even deploying them with a modified minefield thrower.)
Also, looking at the picture at http://www.independent.co.uk/incoming/article10160598.ece/al..., those germinated seeds aren't large. In my (limited) experience handling such things, they are more fragile than seeds, but dropping them is just fine.
For the rightmost two ones, it would help to plant them right side up, but you aren't going to do that dropping it from a drone, either (hm, looking at it, that picture probably isn't worth much as evidence; there's no way you are going to have a relatively small pod burrow into the ground like that from any height, let alone a few meters)
I was a timber in the Australian outback (as a backpacker) and if you plant trees more than 10 feet apart, the sun burns them up, even with a tropical climate/wet season alternance. Like, pitch black wood. You need them close to each other and minimum 5 rows together if you want a self-sustaining hedge (and still the outer rows are doomed to die early). And I'm talking about heavily irrigated areas  next to the Argyle lake in the Northern Territory .
I guess not all places are like Australia, but those with desertification and ecosystem deprecation will require many trees at once. I wonder how they'll deal with this minimum critical mass problem. Overall this startup idea is excellent, for example thick hedges for areas next to the Sahara can stop the desert from advancing and revive the whole area within the perimeter, by rehydrating the winds and restoring livable temperature.
 Heavily irriguated area above 38C all year long: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sandelholzplantagen_Kununu...
 The whole page, with climate histograms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kununurra,_Western_Australia
>I would be sceptical about using this to stop desertification.
Take a closer look at the Permaculture movement and the extremely effective science developed around that scene on the subject of stopping desertification - where this article specifically mentions trees being dropped from the sky, that's merely the outer limit. Grassland-dropping drones would also be effective - its not just trees-as-species, but all the other bio-sphere in between that matters.
Farmers using drones to drop mantis-packs is another potential use .. the sky is literally the limit. What we don't have, is the drone systems that can be readily deployable.
To the Mods. Not sure if this has been posted before. And not sure if link to startup would be better. Please switch link if that would be better. Thanks :)
I think the main reason why replanting is done is to reduce erosion and to provide a new supply of trees to be logged in the future.
80ft tall, 24ft diameter hardwoods can hit 50 tons at maturity (50+ years). So it seems that planting half a dozen to a dozen hardwoods would be enough to mostly offset a typical American's lifetime carbon emissions. Of course, when the tree dies, the carbon has to go somewhere.
I suppose the whole operation would have to either use solar power or be extremely efficient to avoid burning as much or more carbon based fuel than it buries.
If the aim is to just regrow a forest quickly then maybe it doesn't matter. But I think there's probably a difference (aesthetically, if nothing else) between a healthy "natural" forest ecosystem and a plantation all of the same type of tree.
Glad to see we're replanting a substantial amount of trees taken down every year, this gap looks closable. I had in my mind much closer to 5% or 10%...
I recall, about 20 years ago, my father driving us through the forests of West Virginia to visit family, and pointing out that not one of the trees was more than, say, 18 inches across (in my young memory, at least). There was plenty of forest, but it was all young forest. The old growth had been utterly exterminated.
The idea of setting aside land for unmanaged old-growth forests is a modern one and we're likely seeing it again for the first time since early colonial times; back then it was inadvertent.
I'd be interested to know if there's much difference between managed and unmanaged mini wilderness -- can you just leave a few fields to go wild and it'll turn out okay or do humans need to steer it for the first few years?
source? (hope it's not your ass)
The US practices this international tactic of dragging its feet as long as possible, giving time to its companies to catch up with international standards (and to hell with everything else if need be, environment be damned!). At the same time, it will very willingly impose international standards wherever they feel their local companies are at an advantage. This is why lots of European population are skeptical of the TTIP: the US is probably sending us a Trojan horse.
But macroenconomic principles mean nothing if you have greed. If one is greedy, then its just a matter of maximizing what's on your plate, with no regard of how much you're taking from others (potentially future generations)
Further, tax changes move at a glacially slow pace compared to the process changes and technological progress that would be natural reactions to increased costs of producing carbon.
For example, a carbon tax obviates the need for market pricing, simply set your target, e.g. 20% reduction in carbon use in 10 years, and fix carbon tax increases/decreases tied to that target, so that if you fall behind reaching that target a tax rate increase automatically kicks in for the next year.
>For example, a carbon tax obviates the need for market pricing, simply set your target, e.g. 20% reduction in carbon use in 10 years, and fix carbon tax increases/decreases tied to that target, so that if you fall behind reaching that target a tax rate increase automatically kicks in for the next year.
This is neither a strategy for implementing a properly revenue neutral tax, nor to drive toward any sort of efficient allocation. It is completely viable, though, if your goal is not revenue neutrality or efficiency.
I do not here make the argument that revenue neutrality or efficiency must be the aim of such governmental action, only that these two specific aims cannot be accomplished by a government imposing taxes.
Eg. Governments do a lot already to (dis)incentivize behavior through tax policy. Are you saying this doesn't work?
I'll do some further reading on cap and trade, most of my knowledge on this matter is from the book Storms of my Grandchildren, which speaks to the issues against cap and trade at length.
Sometimes it seems as if many people don't realize that timber companies plant the most trees - who else has the incentive to?
Combine drone-planting with permaculture, and you've got a $Trillion terra-forming industry just waiting to happen ..
>"Fletcher doesn't pretend that the method is as good as hand-sowing, but it's a hell of a lot quicker."
Also for comparisons sake, the expected survival rate of those 3k hand planted trees is 50%.
It would be interesting to hear some planters weigh in on the technology described in the OP. Agree the "# of trees planted" is not the best metric--the real question is how many of those will grow into mature trees.
Some background on the job:
I went out to his camp for a couple of weeks and planted for a while.
IMO the proposed solution looks great. Obviously it's not perfect and needs some refinement, but that's the whole point isn't it - we're always striving to learn more and make things better.
We should ponder the possiblity of more efficient lower-tech non-drone options, like tree-howitzers, or maybe an A10 warthog with an acorn gun, or some sort of honey-clusters-of-nuts cluster-bomb type payload for a B-52.
Fixed link: http://afforestt.com/
So good job on getting some press- let's see some hardware in action so we have something to get excited about.
The worst is the big overpopulation of herbivores. We don't want to just feed the goats. The real number is how many trees will survive at least ten years not how many you can plant. I'll suggest to add some biodegradable mesh cover to this capsules.
Other is that many wastelands have been burned and lost his soil and are basically bare rock. A human can search for most favourable crevices but a drone normally can't have this level of accuracy. If we start trowing capsules to bare rock we just will have a lot of plant failures upside down drying at the sun
And of course many birds will do gladly this work almost for free if you just put a fence, some shelter and several birdfeeders with soft fruits, figs or accorns.
The second part is to optimize for the speed of tree growth. I can't locate the post, but a man/company had learned of a way to regrow trees faster, significantly reducing the number of years needed. It definitely had something to do with supplying nutrients, but placement may also have been involved.
I hope this startup communicates and investigates speed of growth, rather than simply planting, so they can have an even bigger impact; however, it's great to see, either way.
I can't locate the post, but a man/company had learned of
a way to regrow trees faster, significantly reducing the
number of years needed.
How to Grow a Forest Really Really Fast
Buy cheap land; plant trees; sell land or logging rights.
No need to try to enforce a property right over something on someone else's land 20+ years in the future.
Also don't think you can simply replant the rain forest.
It's actually quite complicated; the way harvesting work doesn't nicely mimic how trees naturally die and are replaced in the forest. So if you harvest with clearcuts or even selective logging and don't replant, you'll probably end up with a different forest composition than if natural methods (fires/pests/rot) had removed those trees. So replanting is done to try and correct that imbalance and get the forest back into a healthy functioning state as soon as possible. It's also much faster than allowing natural regrowth - especially in a clear cut area.
If you replant you can also use improved (through breeding, not GMO at this point) plant stock, so you'll end up with better yields in ~80 years.
And replenishing the rainforest is done research - its been worked out how to do it. The problem is its really labor intensive, so this is why the drone-delivery is key.
Use drones to replant key species, watch the rainforest re-grow over 10 - 20 years.
"26 billion trees are currently being burned down every year while only 15 billion are replanted."
To replace a big cod with a cod egg just will not work. You need millions of eggs to assure that an adult fish will survive. With trees is similar.