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The companies began collaborating when AirSeed, an Australian drone startup, approached CAL International, a British engineering and smart tech firm, to ask for help in refining the planting system for its drone technology.
In particular, AirSeed needed to improve the way its existing seed pod delivery system, the AirSeed drone, worked for users and how well it was manufactured.
“Working with CAL, they have managed to take an existing delivery system design and turn it into a unique pod delivery mechanism,” Andrew Walker, AirSeed co-founder, said. “The design and engineering that has gone into the aerial platform from CAL also means we can produce a great number of AirSeed aerial platforms and deploy these into the field quicker to speed up the process of reforestation which will help us in a race against time to mitigate climate change.”
The drone uses artificial and data intelligence to operate a payload and delivery system that identifies and locates target areas with GPS coordinates. The AirSeed team is careful when picking which areas to plant, taking into consideration what plant species are already in the area.
The drone drops carbon pods designed specifically for the kind of soil it will be planted in, ensuring trees have the best chance of growth. The pod also protects the seed from combative elements, like insects, rodents and birds, during its germination cycle. When it rains, the carbon begins absorbing water, which allows the seed to germinate.
AirSeed’s drones take off autonomously and follow a pre-programmed flight plan while dropping an exact quantity of carbon pods at a rate of two pods per second. The drone follows a predetermined planting pattern before landing.
After planting, the drone uses its mapping system to pinpoint the pods, taking into account its flight trajectory and the wind conditions on the day of planting. Knowing where the pods are located makes it possible for the team to send drones on return flights to map tree growth.
“When AirSeed explained what they hoped to achieve, it was a challenge that we were delighted to take on,” Cliff Kirby, CAL International founder and engineer, said. “The huge significance and impact that this innovation can bring in the fight against climate change is truly global. Together with AirSeed based in Australia and South Africa and CAL based in the UK, this is a global collaboration and the very definition of the art of the possible.
With a two-person team, the AirSeed drones can plant 40,000 pods a day. The company’s goal is to plant 100 million trees by 2024. AirSeed’s platform is 80% cheaper than current planting methods, which can be and labor-intensive, and 25 times faster than manual planting.