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I think I have found another favorite author to add to my collection. It is utterly enchanting, sensual and fabulous. Julie James gives a robust voice to contemporary courtships! Amusing and sexy, Julie James books are flirtatious temptations for every reader. Every single one she has written is on my keeper shelves—they are that good.

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However, Julie James knocks it out of the park. The romance is absolutely delicious, and Kyle is one of the most memorable heroes of This is undoubtedly one of my favorite romances of the year, and one I will be re-reading for years to come. Lacking the labor and tree inventory to stem this possibility, forest keepers resort to a stopgap measure: use helicopters to drench the area in herbicides to kill weeds, then saturate it with fast-growing cheatgrass or the like. The alternative to spraying is, again, the manual approach: machetes.

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One final complication: helicopter spraying is a horrendously dangerous profession. This is an extremely dangerous occupation: 80 to crashes occur every year in the U. In short, there are more and worse fires and we have fewer resources — and dated ones at that — with which to restore forests after them. These are facts anyone in forest ecology and logging are familiar with, but perhaps not as well known among technologists.

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We do tend to stay in areas with cell coverage. But it turns out that a boost from the cloistered knowledge workers of the tech world — specifically those in the Emerald City — may be exactly what the industry and ecosystem require. It turns out that the process requires far more intelligence than anyone was willing, it seems, to apply to the problem — with the exception of those planters.

Earlier this year, DroneSeed was awarded the first multi-craft, overpounds unmanned aerial vehicle license ever issued by the FAA.


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Its custom UAV platforms, equipped with multispectral camera arrays, high-end lidar , six-gallon tanks of herbicide and proprietary seed dispersal mechanisms have been hired by several major forest management companies, with government entities eyeing the service as well.

These drones scout a burned area, mapping it down to as high as centimeter accuracy, including objects and plant species, fumigate it efficiently and autonomously, identify where trees would grow best, then deploy painstakingly designed seed-nutrient packages to those locations.

The idea for the company began when founder and CEO Grant Canary burned through a few sustainable startup ideas after his last company was acquired, and was told, in his despondency, that he might have to just go plant trees. Even at the most sophisticated companies in the world, planters are superheroes that use bags and a shovel to plant trees. We are now able to do both these functions with drones. This allows those same workers to address much larger areas faster without the caloric wear and tear.

But investors are interested in automation, machine learning, drones and especially government contracts.

That Night

So the pitch took that form. With the money DroneSeed secured, it has built its modestly sized but highly accomplished team and produced the prototype drones with which is has captured several significant contracts before even announcing that it exists. The company went through Techstars, and Social Capital helped them get on their feet, with Spero Ventures joining up after the company got some groundwork done.

If things go as DroneSeed hopes, these drones could be deployed all over the world by trained teams, allowing spraying and planting efforts in nurseries and natural forests to take place exponentially faster and more efficiently than they are today. Every landscape differs from every other, not just in the shape and size of the area to be treated but the ecology, native species, soil type and acidity, type of fire or logging that cleared it and so on.

So the first and most important task is to gather information. For this, DroneSeed has a special craft equipped with a sophisticated imaging stack. A big part of this operation was the creation not only of the drones themselves, but the infrastructure with which to deploy them. The drones themselves are unique, but not alarmingly so.

DroneSeed deploys drones in swarms, which means as many as five drones in the air at once — which in turn means they need two trucks and trailers with their boxes, power supplies, ground stations and so on. The drones take off and fly autonomously, but always under direct observation by the crew. It would be sad if they had to truck the craft back to a hangar and recharge them every hour or two.

That Night

It also increases logistics costs like gas and lodging if it takes more time and driving. This means the team involves several people, as well as several drones. Qualified pilots and observers are needed, as well as people familiar with the hardware and software that can maintain and troubleshoot on site — usually with no cell signal or other support.

Like many other forms of automation, this one brings its own new job opportunities to the table. The idea of loading up a drone with seeds and setting it free on a blasted landscape is easy enough to picture. There are efforts going back decades to essentially load seeds or seedlings into guns and fire them out into the landscape at speeds high enough to bury them in the dirt: in theory this combines the benefits of manual planting with the scale of carpeting the place with seeds.

But whether it was slapdash placement or the shock of being fired out of a seed gun, this approach never seemed to work.

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Trained humans find perfect spots to put seedlings: in the lee of a log; near but not too near the edge of a stream; on the flattest part of a slope, and so on. If you really want a forest to grow, you need optimal placement, perfect conditions and preventative surgical strikes with pesticides.

A logging company might want a tree every couple of feet, even if that means putting them in sub-optimal conditions — but a few inches to the left or right may make all the difference. On the other hand, national forests may want more sparse deployments or specific species in certain locations to curb erosion or establish sustainable firebreaks.

But not just any old seeds! The outside is dusted with capsaicin, the chemical that makes spicy food spicy and also what makes bear spray do what it does.

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Finally these pucks are loaded in a special puck-dispenser which, closely coordinating with the drone, spits one out at the exact moment and speed needed to put it within a few centimeters of the microsite. All these factors should improve the survival rate of seedlings substantially.

Reforestation is a numbers game played at scale, and even slight improvements — and DroneSeed is promising more than that — are measured in square miles and millions of tons of biomass. DroneSeed has already signed several big contracts for spraying, and planting is next. After demonstrating the effectiveness of the planting technique, the company expects to expand its business substantially.

Ideally the hardware can be assigned to local teams that do the on-site work, producing loci of activity around major forests from which jobs can be deployed at large or small scales.