Brazil Turns to Drones To Protect the Amazon

Jun, 12, 2015

By James Harker (aka Green Dad):

Drones could hold the key to stopping destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Yes, I know it sounds a bit Star Wars, doesn’t it?

 amazon-deforestationThe problem of deforestation in the Amazon is not new. But it has gotten much worse since the early 2000s, when Brazil’s government allowed substantially more farming in the Amazon, as global demand for beef and animal feed increased. Is this a problem for us? Well, yes, because the Amazon provides 20% of the entire world’s oxygen (that’s no typo!), which helps stabilize the world’s climate.

Under global pressure, in 2014 Brazil finally passed a new Forest Code requiring farmers to preserve 80% of their land’s forest. Over the past 2 years, Brazil has built an online registry of the boundaries of all 5 million rural properties in the Amazon — no small feat, I will admit. But there has been no credible plan regarding how to enforce the new Forest Code. Satellite imagery (as seen in Google Maps) is not detailed enough, nor is it updated frequently enough.

This is where the drones come in. The largest municipality in Brazil is now using a drone to fly over farmland and take detailed photographs of the land. These drones can photograph 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) in a 5-hour flight, which is massively more effective than the current system of sending government inspectors to walk through a farm to verify compliance. The success so far has other municipalities raising the $50-100,000 required to buy a single drone to monitor farms in their jurisdiction.

drone-plantingDrones also could be key to reforestation of the Amazon (and forests all over the world). BioCarbon Engineering is a new company out of Oxford, England, that is piloting a fleet of drones to plant trees. Their motto is “Changing the World, one billion trees at a time.” CEO Lauren Fletcher says, “Global deforestation is happening at an industrial scale. Governments and organisations [sic] are spending billions planting trees, but the standard method of hand-planting can’t keep up.” As he told Wired magazine , his plan is to have 1 billion trees planted this year.

Worldwide, we are cutting down approximately 26 billion trees per year. This simply is unsustainable. We need to have the will to pass smart laws, and the creativity and ingenuity to find ways to reverse this trend. I am cautiously optimistic when I see modern technologies being used as part of the solution.

James Harker

James is a Green Dad. He has been married to Green Mom (aka FredriKa) for 17 years and is a father of 3. His primary career has been in software. He has started two software companies, worked in San Francisco, London, San Diego and now Stockholm. He is the Chief Product Officer for eBay Sweden. James’s interests outside of work round out his character. He is an Eagle Scout and loves nature and the outdoors, especially hiking and camping. While living in London, Fredrica and James started practicing yoga with more focus and intensity, and he became a certified yoga teacher. James hopes to inspire other dads to bring more consciousness to their family life … in the time they spend with their kids, in the impact they make on the planet and in the mindset they have about how we all live our lives.

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