Are drones the climate lifeguard? Can it handle Climate Change?

Our planet is on a brink of an environmental disaster. Global temperatures are rising, with stark consequences for many of the things that we take for granted. Advanced technological innovations like drones, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc. are crucial for climate change mitigation.

Fortunately, there is a technology that has emerged to gather data:

  • For conservation projects
  • To support the work of environmental researchers
  • Playing a key role in implementing sustainable solutions
  • Helping in the fight against the odds created by climate effects, and
  • To service renewable energy infrastructure.

And it can do all of those things in a way that’s better, easier, faster, cheaper, and safer than before. We are speaking about Drones for Climate Change! These flying robots are tackling climate change from multiple angles. Improving the efficiency of solar and wind farms, protecting endangered species, and supporting the work of scientists across the world.

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Drones are powering Earth’s sustainable future, and by the end of this blog, you will agree with me.

The use of drones for filmmaking and military purposes are not the only uses. They help combat climate change too. And it is a very crucial shift in our technological capability for combatting climate change. Information is key, and timely received information is gold, and that’s one of the primary use cases of Drones. Besides that, drones have bigger potentials and can help fight severe climate change issues.

Drones for planting trees

Let me start with a piece of mind-boggling information, i.e., planting trees with drones. You won’t believe that there are drones that can plant 120 trees per minute. Think about it, how much time it would take for human planters to plant such a number?

Interesting thing to know

Deforestation is responsible for more than 15% of net global carbon emissions (comparable to the world’s entire transportation sector), making the protection of forests are vital in the effort to reduce emissions. And Costa Rica is currently trialing a project called “Deep Forest” which uses drones to monitor tree degradation and the impact of illegal logging. It’s hoped that, by knowing more about the forest, conservation efforts will be more impactful. Drones are also helping plant trees, startup BioCarbon Engineering has created drones that can plant as many as 100,000 trees per day and has spent years replanting the mangroves around the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar.

Planting trees can slow climate change and other environmental harms. It can reduce carbon, improve the air and water quality, and can also help in preventing erosion. They can play a significant role in planting trees as well. Below is an interesting video of Droneseed planting trees through Drones.

How Drones are Helping to Plant Trees – A Cleaner Future. Presented by Coors-Light // Droneseed is a Seattle-based startup that envisions a future where technology is solving our planet’s deforestation problems. Source: Mashable

Drones for cleaning air pollution

Another thing that fascinates me is the utilization of drones for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. For countries like India in terms of air pollution, Drone can result in a game-changing role. Remember Diwali? Drones can clear smog, and can spray the polluted air with water and special solutions to reduce PM 2.5 particles. And this helps in decreasing the air pollution dramatically. It is the one most important issue that India is fighting, and Drones have an answer to it. Amazing right?

Drones for inspecting nuclear power stations

A breathtaking real-world problem that I want to discuss is nuclear plants and the radiation associated with it. Nuclear power is something that can play an enormous role in moving the world away from fossil fuels. But there are practical challenges, as whenever there is the word nuclear there is this danger of health and safety. The threat of radiation exposure means that infrastructure inspections can put workers in too much harm. With drones as their eyes, engineers can now perform visual inspections from a safe distance.

Source: Pexels.com

For active nuclear plants, a single drone flight can provide power companies with savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This will help industries avoid costly shutdowns while doing inspections. If you haven’t seen the Chernobyl (TV Mini-Series 2019), a TV Series on an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics become one of the world’s worst man-made catastrophes — I advise you to see it. If that time drones had been around, thousands of people would have saved their lives.

Drones in agriculture

One of the key areas of sustainability is Agriculture. With a growing global population, farmers are turning to drones and other technologies. It helps them to maximize their yields by better adapting to recurring challenges of weather, climate change, pests, and diseases.

To make data-driven decisions, farmers need accurate data. Drones and these latest generations of sensors can help in capturing the insights quickly and cost-effectively. Above all, it can help in planning crop cycles, assessing crop health, detecting infestations, or determining hydration levels.

The agricultural industry has been utilizing technology since the early 90s to improve efficiency and profits. From the early use of GPS guidance systems for automated tractors to the use of drones in agriculture to spray crops and monitor herds, the use of technology on the farm (often referred to as “precision agriculture”) has become a valuable tool. Utilizing drones in precision agriculture plans expands the overall farming experience by:

  1. Monitoring – crop growth, moisture levels, irrigation problems, parasite impact, livestock location and health, soil erosion
  2. Detection – weed growth, parasite invasion, livestock threats, weather damage, UV damage
  3. Assessment – crop yield estimation, asset, and facility status, fertilizer & herbicide impact
  4. Deployment – watering, seeding, livestock, and asset tracking

Drones to keep up with coastal changes

Climate Change is also threatening our coastal areas. As sea levels rise, some of the most serious impacts of climate change are already becoming evident. The goal at this point is to reduce the long-term impact of climate change alongside mitigation.

Coastal areas are most at risk, and to understand the water flows, drones are the perfect tool. They can survey and can cover a huge amount of ground in a minimal period, without sacrificing data granularity.

Drone-enabled LiDAR surveys can help in simulating the shoreline changes so that scientists can account for rising sea levels. They can also run storm impact models, and predict which areas will be most at risk of flooding.

Drones for scientists and researchers

By far the most valuable use case for scientists and researchers are getting to the nerves of the planet. Yes, you heard me right, what I meant is to examine the root cause by exploring the areas which are impossible to get in. But then just picture, Drones’ ability to access remote areas makes them so valuable to scientists and researchers who are trying to understand the changes in the weather patterns — which affect rainforest trees, mountain air, and underwater ecosystems.

RRS Sir David Attenborough – UT 851 Polar Research Vessel. Picture Credit: Rolls-Royce plc

Underwater, scientists have sent drones to collect sediment samples and analyze climate change’s impact on ocean life. Think about how many touch points there are between scientists and researchers each time there is an impact on the climate that needs immediate attention. Imagine, with the population of Whales are struggling to recover from over three centuries — the North Atlantic whales are just one step from extinction, and counting those whales is something a very time-consuming task if you do it with boats and divers, and that’s where drones work. They just don’t count whales but are also capable to monitor the changes in the temperature. They articulate the climatic changes happening underwater, hence giving a broader and more detailed perspective to scientists.

Drones for delivery

Delivery is also one more area that I want to talk about. Transportation is one of the major contributors to carbon emissions. The practical and fractional shift to drones for delivery can bring a significant impact on carbon reduction. Amazon has done POC and proofed that it can work.

But because of their limited range, drones may only serve small parcels today. Other thoughts have been about deploying drones in coordination with the trucks. By theory it could scale last-mile delivery, reducing the truck delivery drive route, miles, and emissions. For now, the good news is, drone delivery in the US has, at least, started in its trial stages.

Drones for disaster mitigation

As a last use case, I’d like to discuss a plan to mitigate climate disasters, which is somewhat of a roller coaster. Robots, IoT, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence could all help us improve the capabilities of drones so we can use them in many ways. One of the scenarios could be the disaster mitigation plan for wildfires. Remember the Australian bushfire season or 2020 California Wildfires? Burning more than 200,000 sq km of area is likely to be the flight distance between Delhi and Dhaka.

Such a wildfire puts the wildlife in danger, the nearby cities in danger, and even the entire humanity in danger.

The disaster mitigation use case: Improving Information and Communications in a Disaster Scenario

Imagine that there are sensors and other real-time drone monitoring systems available when the wildfire erupts, allowing them to generate a predictive analysis of future events related to the disaster.

By using the current technology, we can identify the wind directions, which will help us determine the direction of fire penetration, and further using drones we can create predictive pathways to identify the most probable touchpoint of the city. And if we have a high probable point where the fire can hit first at the city border, we can effectively plan the disaster control. We can plan for much-informed evacuation plans, we can plan for coordinated traffic diversions. Drones can be trained with artificial intelligence and machine learning to make smart decisions. They can identify critical areas so that high priorities can be identified and are notified in a timely manner.

The Woolsey Fire, California. (Photo courtesy of Peter Buschmann) via Forest Service, USDA

Drones can help us fight these climate effects. Today we can throw dragon eggs using drones. These are those anti-fire balls that blast into the fire and can work as a fire extinguisher. Now think, today it isn’t possible to go deep into wildfires and extinguish them if we don’t use drones — because otherwise, it could be a greater risk for human life. So drones can simply fly above these wildfires and can throw these balls. Isn’t it a life-changing, thing?

Closing note – Drones and Climate Change

Drones are at the forefront of a technological revolution. These flying robots are providing scientists with an easy and inexpensive way to gather vital climate data, giving renewable energy companies a powerful productivity tool, and helping researchers prepare for the complex implications of climate change.

Imagine drones delivering first aid kits or life vests to people during a Hurricane. Whether they’re in the air or underwater, drones can be vital for finding solutions to many challenges of climate change.

► DISCLAIMER ◄

Information provided in the podcast are of a general guide from a personal perspective and do not constitute legal or authoritative advice. The statistics and regulations referred in the podcast is sourced from public information bureau and is subject to change with time. It is the viewers responsibility to verify the currency of information.

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