FAA Approves DroneSeed for First-Ever Over-55 Lb. Swarms for Planting After Wildfires, Secures Funding
SEATTLE, November 29, 2018 (Newswire.com) - DroneSeed Co., which uses drone swarms to accelerate reforestation by planting and protecting trees, today announces the first-ever approval by the FAA to operate heavy-lift drone swarms weighing greater than 55 pounds. This coincides with their public announcement of receiving $3.7 million in funding earlier this year.
Following the FAA approval, DroneSeed signed its first commercial, post-wildfire re-planting project with one of the five-largest timber companies in the U.S. – execution of the contract is already underway. The company is also actively reviewing proposals from entities concerned with restoring large acreages of difficult terrain with native vegetation in the Malibu fires.
"This was an incredibly sophisticated FAA approval process that sets a new legal precedent. Normally these types of approvals are first obtained by major aerospace and industrial giants."
Lisa Ellman, Aviation Counsel to DroneSeed
“This was an incredibly sophisticated FAA approval process that sets a new legal precedent. Normally these types of approvals are first obtained by major aerospace and industrial giants,” said Lisa Ellman, aviation counsel to DroneSeed.
In the past, land managers hit by fire normally ordered trees and grew them in a nursery for 18 months before transplanting them. In the interim time, land erodes causing mudslides and degrading fish habitat due to sediment in the water or invasive species move in. DroneSeed advanced on prior concepts of aerial seeding by attaching native seeds to one of four ecosystem-specific, patent-pending delivery vessels. DroneSeed has also advanced on prior concepts of aerial seeding by creating software for drones to target planting at good growing sites, called 'microsites.'
Their investment round closed earlier this year but just announced, and was led by venture capital firm Social Capital with Spero Ventures, and Techstars. The round follows an investment thesis emerging in some venture capital circles that the biggest investment returns will come from startups that utilize software to operate in regulated industries, such as the case with Airbnb, Lyft/Uber and 23andMe. Social Capital previously invested in Saildrone, Swarm Technologies, Urban Footprint and Aclima, all of which operate beyond pure software and serve customers that include government entities.
"We lose two-and-a-half billion trees every year. One of the fastest ways to mitigate climate change is to focus on global reforestation," said Jay Zaveri, partner at Social Capital. "We are incredibly excited for the DroneSeed team, as they now expand from the private sector to engage with government agencies and nonprofits to utilize drone swarms to restore our forests and rangelands at an unprecedented rate."
Rob Veres, partner at Spero Ventures, addressed their investor perspective stating, “In DroneSeed, Spero saw a company that was building the necessary and challenging back-end hardware and software to enable drones to deliver a useful service beyond data, in one of the first areas of airspace it would be possible, for a purpose of incredible importance to humanity — reforestation and mitigating the worst effects of climate change.” Spero Ventures’ sole limited partner is eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.
DroneSeed currently operates with four aircraft simultaneously, each weighing up to 115 lbs. and capable of delivering up to 57 lbs. of payload in the form of tree seeds, herbicides, fertilizer and water per aircraft per flight. The company has been operating since 2016 under contracts with several of the largest timber companies in the U.S. The next step for DroneSeed is drone delivery of seeds. For more information on drone swarm reforestation solutions, visit www.droneseed.co.