Speaker Day 1: Planting trees using drones
Hester McQueen, ICF Marketing and Communications Officer, interviews Jeremie Leonard as he prepares to address the Institute’s forthcoming National Conference: Innovation for Change.
What technological and/or other developments do you envisage making an impact on the sector in the next few years?
In BioCarbon Engineering we are working on GPS tracking to monitor the growth of trees and we are developing the algorithm that would use remote sensing for biomass and carbon sequestration evaluation. We believe that data-driven decision-making on forest management and ecosystem restoration is the future, and remote sensing will play a major role in it.
What scientific and/or technological advancements excite you the most?
I am personally very excited about game changing technologies and mentalities, regardless of the field they are demonstrated in. I find that breaking from conventional knowledge in order to disrupt an industry and make it exponentially better is particularly inspiring. A great example would be the latest Space X launch. While being in the field in Myanmar, operating our tree-planting drones knee-deep in mud, we were finding the time to watch the rocket flying in space on our smart-phones.
Why is your topic important for ICF’s National Conference 2018?
The forestry sector has been lagging behind in innovating and adopting new technologies. However, there are many disruptive high-tech solutions that are breaking into the sector. I am very proud to be representing one solution that uses remote sensing to develop a 3D map in order to drive automated tree-planting. I believe that forestry will be changing rapidly in the next few years, and it is important to know where the next big thing will come from.
What are the greatest challenges facing forestry in the future?
With rapid soil degradation, agricultural run-off and the loss of farming land, agriculture and livestock are putting greater pressure on global forests. We believe that competition for fertile soil and climate change will be the biggest challenges for forestry, while smarter farming and data-driven decision-making could point towards the solution.
What advancements over the last few years have excited you most?
I have been fascinated by the advances in the drone industry. It started as a few university research programs, gained popularity through some toy-level products and are now being used across a large number of fields and revolutionise them.
Specifically, the development of remote sensing and automated systems in forest restoration excites me most. This is also why I am doing my job as an engineer and a drone pilot of ecosystem mapping and tree-planting drones.