The latest drones in Resolute’s Ontario woodland operations will help the company reduce its carbon footprint, and could even lead to faster forest regeneration after harvesting. The seeding drone, a Hylio AG-166, is a heavy-duty multicopter. Built in Texas and designed as an aerial sprayer, the drone’s sprayer arms were removed and fitted with a seed spreader. Loaded with jack pine seeds, the drone flies like a helicopter and can get to work right after an area has been harvested, allowing seeds to germinate along with other species.
This fall the Hylio drone is finishing a few more weeks of production testing to gather enough information so that it can be used to seed this spring. While relatively new in Ontario reforestation, seeding drones have been used with success in Canada and the U.S. in areas affected by wildfires.
Before seeding can begin, the team needs an accurate, detailed, and current picture of the area. Enter the Swiss-made WingtraOne, a drone that flies like a plane (at 35 mph – 57 kilometers per hour – it is eight times faster than a multicopter) and can takeoff and land vertically.
Equipped with a high-resolution camera and a four-foot (125 cm) wingspan, the WingtraOne can fly in a series of parallel tracks that are then stitched together to form a detailed photograph. Beyond depletion mapping, the drones are also used to help pulp and paper mills inventory their wood chip stores.
The WingtraOne’s high-end compact Sony camera can be switched for a thermal imaging camera that can check pulp mill wood chip stores for hot spots. As piles of chips and biomasss compress, they can generate enough heat to lead to combustion, making the drone an important part of a mill’s safety system.