In a remote field south of Yangon, Myanmar, tiny mangrove saplings are now roughly 20 inches tall. It’s early proof of technology that could help restore forests at the pace needed to fight climate change. Two operators working with 10 drones can theoretically plant 400,000 trees in a day. Roughly half of the world’s mangrove forests have been lost. The trees, with twisted roots that reach underwater along coastlines, can store more carbon than trees on land. Thus, it has become essential to reforestation this species as soon as possible, which is able to sequester more atmospheric carbon dioxide than the average species of trees. Only in Myanmar, approximately 350,000 hectares need to be reforestation.
The drones first fly over an area to map it, collecting data about the topography and soil condition that can be combined with satellite data and analyzed to determine the best locations to plant each seed. Then the drone fires biodegradable pods—filled with a germinated seed and nutrients—into the ground.