New South African Invention Lets Drones Plant Hundreds Of Trees In Minutes


Andries Louw, from South Africa, and Andrew Walker, from Australia, are two drone fanatics who have designed drones that plant a huge amount of seeds in under single-digit minutes. Their design involves a pneumatic seed shooter, which literally shoots the seed into the soil, where they would be fertilized.

The shooter shoots a couple of seeds every second, at a speed of 150-300 m/s. This module has been named ‘Podder’. The creators are of the opinion that since this module can be fitted to most drones, a couple of drones would be enough to plant around 40000 seeds in a day.



Their company named AirSeed Technologies has been increasingly efficient in combating deforestation.

Deforestation has been the second leading cause for climate change, after the burning of fossil fuels. It is estimated that deforestation accounts for more than 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

A team of ‘Podders’ could plant up to a million trees in a year if started from 2023. The duo believes that reforestation or afforestation is the key to solving this problem. And since there is a deficit of almost 14 billion trees per year, it also leads to a loss of 1.26 billion metric tons of carbon sequestration, per year. 

Easier said than done, for trees can cost up to R30 in Africa, and are usually in rough terrains that are difficult to access. Louw also mentions that the average planter could only plant around 800 trees a day, with the germination period between 3 months and 2 years. He believes that using his drones would reduce the price by 70%.

Drones have been used in the past for germination. But the maximum they can contain is 150 seeds in one journey.

To tackle that, AirSeed has designed a seed pod of soil additive that is extremely light. Thermochemically compressed biomass is turned into highly pressurized charcoal. The balls weigh up to 5 grams and up to a thousand seeds can be carried in one payload.

The seeds get compressed into this biochar of sorts, where they derive the nutrients from the pod itself. This prevents the need to pre-germinate them. They need to protect and preserve the seeds in something that is smooth but has a hard exoskeleton to protect from animals.

After the take-off, the seeds need to be buried only 2.5cm into the. And as the pod gets released, one can log into the GPS and check the success rate of each plant. But, handling it individually is not going to produce the vast results that they are looking for. Swarming technology has to be used, which entails one drone user manipulating several drones at one go.

Louw believes that if there was a team with 4 experts with 8 drones amongst them, they would be able to plant at least 160000 trees in one single day.

But South Africa has aviation laws which prevent swarming technology. This is exactly why the duo has taken to demonstrating in Australia, where the drones would be legalized in 3 months. The module and the seeds have been placed under application for patent.