By Duncan Murray
SYDNEY, May 31 (Xinhua) -- Drones from Chinese company, XAG have been used to reseed an area of Australian wilderness devastated by bushfires similar to those which swept the country last summer.
In a combination of classic environmentalism and cutting-edge technology, the drones dropped thousands of seeds across 40 hectares of Lake Cobrico peat swamp in the south eastern State of Victoria.
The initial brains behind the idea, Paul Hartrick, from the Heytesbury District Landcare Network (HDLN) told Xinhua on Friday that the area is vital to the region's broader ecology, but has been slow to recover since being badly charred by bushfires on St Patrick's Day in 2018.
In some areas, the fire had burnt up to a meter below ground into the flammable peat, creating slumps and bare patches over two years later.
"Because of the way peat swamps and mass areas form, it takes a long time to rebuild the hydrology and the plants to hold the water in and for that environment to re-establish itself," Hartrick explained.
With this in mind, and inspired by the growing use of drones in agriculture, Hartrick began the search for a company which could pick up the project, landing on XAG.
In April this year, XAG sent three sets of its P Series drones, equipped with a custom designed seed spreading attachment, and in conjunction with the HDLN and Victoria's Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), set about distributing native seeds directly onto Lake Cobrico peat swamp in an Australian-first.
Co-founder of XAG, Justin Gong told Xinhua that drone seeding has several benefits over traditional methods.
"(We) use a remote sensing drone to find out which places are seriously damaged and need reseed and where not, in this way we generate a prescription map."
"Then the drone carrying the seed will take off and reach the predetermined area to sow the seed. The whole process is very efficient and cost-effective."
During the operation, drones followed the pre-set flight routes projecting seeds from two-three meters above the ground, while the rate of distribution could be easily controlled and adjusted in real time to ensure that the proper amount of seed was distributed evenly into the targeted bare land.
"Drones aren't new, as we all know, but in Australia and particularly Victoria they're a relatively new tool in terms of land use, primary production, agriculture, as well as environmental work," Hartrick said.
As well as being both cost and time effective, the drones also avoid the necessity of putting people on the ground in affected areas, potentially causing more damage to the ecosystem, or being hurt themselves.
With bushfires expected to be an increasing influence not just in Australia but globally, the technique pioneered in partnership by Australian and Chinese innovators may play a role in future regeneration efforts worldwide.
"The trial project in Lake Cobrico demonstrates the best practice of drones to regenerate fire-impacted peat swamps in a safe, cost-effective manner, without human or mechanical trampling on vegetation cover," XAG said in a statement. Enditem