SIERRA COUNTY, Calif. (News 4 & Fox 11) — On a sunny Earth Day northwest of Reno, a small drone took flight for a big mission — reforesting a hillside that burned in last year’s Loyalton Fire.
The drone lifted off to scatter up to 750 Jeffrey pine seedballs over the charred landscape in just a few minutes, then landed to be filled up again.
It’s believed the drone could scatter as many as 75,000 individual seeds on a 25-acre area in just six hours.
U.S. Forest Service officials said the pilot project could be a ‘gamechanger’ for wildfire restoration.
“This gives us an opportunity to seed in areas and plant in areas that typically we wouldn’t go into given slope and topography,” said Matt Zumstein, district ranger for the Carson Ranger District.
It really expands the abilities to revegetate an area post burn and the prospects are exciting.
The pilot project is possible thanks to a partnership between Flying Forests, the Desert Research Institute, the U.S. Forest Service and the Sugar Pine Foundation.
Dr. Lauren Fletcher, who invented the technology, said the method allows for cheaper, faster and safer reforestation.
“Prior to this type of technology, it was really based on hand labor. People walking out with a bag of saplings on their shoulder and one by one planting those individual trees,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher told News 4-Fox 11 it was the first time his company reseeded a burn scar in the U.S. using the drone technology.