Reforestation Using Drones
Through funding from the Forest Enhancement Society of BC (FESBC), Central Chilcotin Rehabilitation (CCR) used drone technology in a pilot project to reforest areas of the Chilcotin plateau devastated by the 2017 wildfires.
The trial project used drones and hand deployment to direct seed close to 52 hectares – roughly the area of 128 football fields – with thousands of both lodgepole pine and douglas fir. The seeds are embedded in a small vessel which contains a mix of soil and nutrients to give the seeds the best chance at germination.
In some areas, safety hazards, steep slopes or remoteness make traditional tree planting by humans difficult, expensive, and time consuming. Drone technology complements more standard methods to lessen the overall time to restoration across the vast landscapes damaged by megafires.
Aerial seeding services for the Chilcotin plateau project were provided by DroneSeed, a Seattle-based reforestation company. The DroneSeed team worked with FESBC and CCR on the project by providing aerial seeding with heavy-lift drones. Additionally, DroneSeed is currently growing approximately 50,000 seedlings–from seed supplied by CCR–for interplanting within the pilot area of other CCR burned areas in spring of 2023. By combining new, innovative methods of reforestation with traditional ones, CCR and DroneSeed aim to use this hybrid approach of seed vessels and seedlings, both of which have distinct advantages in post-wildfire restoration. As part of the collaboration, DroneSeed’s experts will regularly revisit planting sites to track the seeds’ and seedlings’ growth and report progress back to FESBC and CCR.
If successful, large fire-impacted areas can be restored much faster than by hand planting alone.