By Nathan Frandino
(Reuters) - After record wildfires ravaged the U.S. West Coast, replanting trees amid the apocalyptic, ash-covered landscape is a daunting task.
Seattle-based startup DroneSeed says its fleet of drones can plant trees six times faster than human hands.
"We're losing forest faster to wildfire than nature is regenerating it. And our systems today with nurseries and manual labor out there doing superhero's work, it's insufficient to keep up and keep the forests we have," said DroneSeed CEO Grant Canary.
The company has been using its drones to distribute tree seeds, fertilizers and pest deterrent onto about 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of fire-damaged land to help speed up reforestation.
The drones – which are 8 feet (2.4 meters) in diameter – can carry 57 pounds (26 kg) and fly eight to 18 minutes at a time.
Wildfires in California have burned more than 4 million acres in 2020, over twice the previous record for any year and an area larger than Connecticut.
Heatwaves and dry-lightning coincided with drier conditions that climate scientists blame on global warming.
In addition to helping with reforestation, DroneSeed says its mission also includes mitigating the effects of climate change via carbon capture. Trees capture and store carbon.
"There are many other tools where we are by no means the only silver bullet solution, but we are the ones that are scalable today to buy us more time," Canary said.
(Reporting by Nathan Frandino; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)