Birds, Bees, and Seed-Bombing Drones
by James Dearsley
With my columns, I often like to bring in my personal circumstance – therefore in this roundup, I will be discussing my love of seed bombing along with the admiration of my father’s job (which could very well have come under threat with these latest drones).
Let me start with my past. I used to be a seed bomber. I know that is a huge admission but it is true. I used to, in the dead of night, go around my local areas, find gardens, hedgerows, or even public spaces, that needed brightening up, and throw a seed bomb (a mixture of wildflowers generally), into the soil. Most of the times I was accurate.
Why? I hear you ask. I am a beekeeper so I wanted my bees to get the best forage locally (my honey was in much demand!) but I now see that my slightly sinister past is under threat. Innovation and technology is getting in the way. There is an amazing sounding experiment happening in Bangalore, India.
“What we have in mind is to at least seed 10,000 acres, and we will be doing this every year, for three consecutive years” — Professor S N Omkar
In early June they collectively held their first ever seed-bombing drones trial on the banks of river Pinakini in the Gauribidanur area in Karnataka’s Kolar district.
How do they do this? By wrapping up seed bombs in manure (and other local soil), flying up a drone and dropping the seed bombs along the way. This is something impossible from a standard plane not just because of the land profile but the complexity of the task at hand.
“The advantage with drones is that we have the image before dropping the seeds, and can geotag the path. Subsequently, once every three months we can fly over that area and see the impact of dropping the seeds” — Professor Omkar
Lastly, and this is the bit I love, though I do feel it is slightly idealistic:
“I played in those forests. The river used to flow for four months a year but now sees flowing water during the rainy season. The dream is to bring it back. I don’t know if we will succeed, but I am optimistic. In addition to giving a green cover, I want to bring back the birds, butterflies, as well as monkeys. I grew up with them. When I was a child, this was a lush green area”
Why no bees? is all I say………!
My Father, The Pirate Expert
Moving to another personal story. My father used to fly around the world when I was a child, working with all the ship owners and seafarers who deliver us our goods (98% of world trade is taken by sea) – His main role was to ensure that everyone looked out for everyone else and that everyone was treated fairly (did I mention idealistic earlier on??!) – he was also a renowned pirate expert – you can imagine what I used to tell my teachers and friends when asked what he did.
Anyhow, I found the story of a new start-up in the US, particularly interesting. One of the points my father made was just how reliant we are on world trade and that the aspect of human intervention often made it more difficult and slower to transport goods.
Natlius are building a 30-foot prototype drone that could take to the air for the first time later this year. If all goes as planned, the firm will develop an 80-foot drone that will begin flying routes from Los Angeles to Hawaii in 2019. A 140-foot drone with a 200,000-pound cargo capacity could be flying routes to China starting in 2020.
What I particularly liked about this is the notion that air cargo is all about speed at the minute – in part due to deadlines, in part due to the fact that a pilot doesn’t want to be flying for any longer than needed. “Commercial pilot aeroplanes don’t want to fly slower because it would take forever to get there and pilot fatigue becomes an issue,” Natlius CEO, Aleksey Matyushev told NBC MACH in an email. “For drones, that is not the case.”
As such, shipping 200,000 pounds of freight from Los Angeles to Shanghai via drone, for example, would take about 30 hours at a cost of about $130,000, the company says. Delivery of the same cargo by a Boeing 747 takes about 11 hours and costs about $260,000.
No mention of carbon emissions there – surprising, as I should think that there is a huge difference.
It may be slower but the savings are quite staggering.
I wish them the best of luck, I like the sound of this but – and this is a huge but – there are just three of them in the company. Should this take off after they prove the concept, they could be very busy indeed.
There you have it. Birds, butterflies, seed-bombing drones, cargo planes, but no bees this week…….such a shame. But I, too, am idealistic.