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These Drones Can Plant 100,000 Trees in One Day

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iStock

Billions of trees are felled each year, according to the Rainforest Action Network, and planting a tree requires more time and effort than cutting one down. That makes keeping up with deforestation rates challenging for conservationists. The minds behind one tech startup think they can speed up global tree-planting efforts by taking the burden off humans and placing it on drones.

BioCarbon Engineering has assembled a fleet of drones that can plant thousands of trees a day, as Fast Company reports. The company will soon focus its efforts on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River delta, an area that’s seen rapid loss of its mangrove trees due to aquaculture, agriculture, and logging. Estimates place the amount of regional mangroves destroyed in the past 30 years between 75 and 83 percent. Starting in September, BioCarbon will partner with Worldview International Foundation to aid restoration efforts started by human hands.

Spreading seeds from aircraft (like helicopters) is not a new strategy. These methods are valued for their speed, but chances of tree survival are hurt in the process. To come up with an efficient way of planting that doesn’t damage seeds, BioCarbon had to get innovative.

After the company maps a plot of land from above and analyzes the best spots for planting, their drones fly low to the ground and fire nutrient-packed seed pods into the soil. This way, more seeds end up in places where they’ll thrive rather than on rocks or in streams where they’ll go to waste.

With one human pilot for every six drones, the company is able to get 100,000 pods in the ground a day. Even in places with regulations restricting pilots to one drone at a time, the vehicles are 10 times faster and half as expensive as human labor. Worldview International Foundation, which has worked with the Irrawaddy delta community to plant 750 hectares of trees so far, hopes to expand that area by 250 hectares with help from BioCarbon Engineering. The team also plans to continue employing locals to assemble seed pods and cultivate saplings.

To get a closer look at their planting process, check out the video below.

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The Scariest 25 Minutes in Television History

[h/t Fast Company]

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Animals
Watch an Antarctic Minke Whale Feed in a First-of-Its-Kind Video
WWF
WWF

New research from the World Wildlife Fund is giving us a rare glimpse into the world of the mysterious minke whale. The WWF worked with Australian Antarctic researchers to tag minke whales with cameras for the first time, watching where and how the animals feed.

The camera attaches to the whale's body with suction cups. In the case of the video below, the camera accidentally slid down the side of the minke whale's body, providing an unexpected look at the way its throat moves as it feeds.

Minke whales are one of the smallest baleen whales, but they're still pretty substantial animals, growing 30 to 35 feet long and weighing up to 20,000 pounds. Unlike other baleen whales, though, they're small enough to maneuver in tight spaces like within sea ice, a helpful adaptation for living in Antarctic waters. They feed by lunging through the sea, gulping huge amounts of water along with krill and small fish, and then filtering the mix through their baleen.

The WWF video shows just how quickly the minke can process this treat-laden water. The whale could lunge, process, and lunge again every 10 seconds. "He was like a Pac-Man continuously feeding," Ari Friedlaender, the lead scientist on the project, described in a press statement.

The video research, conducted under the International Whaling Commission's Southern Ocean Research Partnership, is part of WWF's efforts to protect critical feeding areas for whales in the region.

If that's not enough whale for you, you can also watch the full 13-minute research video below:

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technology
AI Could Help Scientists Detect Earthquakes More Effectively
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iStock

Thanks in part to the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, earthquakes are becoming more frequent in the U.S. Even though it doesn't fall on a fault line, Oklahoma, where gas and oil drilling activity doubled between 2010 and 2013, is now a major earthquake hot spot. As our landscape shifts (literally), our earthquake-detecting technology must evolve to keep up with it. Now, a team of researchers is changing the game with a new system that uses AI to identify seismic activity, Futurism reports.

The team, led by deep learning researcher Thibaut Perol, published the study detailing their new neural network in the journal Science Advances. Dubbed ConvNetQuake, it uses an algorithm to analyze the measurements of ground movements, a.k.a. seismograms, and determines which are small earthquakes and which are just noise. Seismic noise describes the vibrations that are almost constantly running through the ground, either due to wind, traffic, or other activity at surface level. It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between noise and legitimate quakes, which is why most detection methods focus on medium and large earthquakes instead of smaller ones.

But better understanding natural and manmade earthquakes means studying them at every level. With ConvNetQuake, that could soon become a reality. After testing the system in Oklahoma, the team reports it detected 17 times more earthquakes than what was recorded by the Oklahoma Geological Survey earthquake catalog.

That level of performance is more than just good news for seismologists studying quakes caused by humans. The technology could be built into current earthquake detection methods set up to alert the public to dangerous disasters. California alone is home to 400 seismic stations waiting for "The Big One." On a smaller scale, there's an app that uses a smartphone's accelerometers to detect tremors and alert the user directly. If earthquake detection methods could sense big earthquakes right as they were beginning using AI, that could afford people more potentially life-saving moments to prepare.

[h/t Futurism]

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