Wildfire restoration got a huge boost in both safety and speed thanks to a recent FAA approval for Seattle-based DroneSeed
The privately held startup obtained an additional amendment to its already unprecedented FAA Part 333 exemption that enables them to operate their seed-planting drones Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) in forested and post-fire areas. This means the company can operate beyond a pilot’s view – a classification thus far unique to only DroneSeed and a first for a company in its industry. BVLOS permits in general also rare – the last numbers released in 2018 show more than twelve hundred BVLOS exemption applications have been submitted to the FAA by commercial drone operators and 99% have failed to be approved.
The significance of DroneSeed’s approval is profound – it saves human lives and unlocks access of public lands that don’t have a road nearby for immediate post-fire replanting. Until now the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lacked an immediate solution to safely, quickly, and effectively replant in those areas. Scorched timber that is left onsite can fall over and kill laborers manually replanting, and natural forest regeneration is in decline due to climate change, with 40% of post-fire Northwest forests at risk of state-shift to grassy scrublands. DroneSeed can safely and efficiently replant seed vessels that boost survival rates immediately after a fire, deploying them with greater precision and efficacy by targeting areas called ‘microsites’ where regrowth has its best odds.
DroneSeed has licenses in Idaho, Oregon and Washington and is actively pursuing the ability to operate in Arizona, California and Colorado.