Clean-tech startup DroneSeed is the first company approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to deliver agricultural payloads with multiple drones. DroneSeed provides precision forestry services to timber companies and non-profits and is paid to spray to protect trees, plant tree seeds, and monitor their growth. The regulatory achievement is the culmination of passing several milestones. In April, DroneSeed hosted a final FAA visit at a Washington state site and passed a knowledge and skills test that certified their aircraft and pilot.
VP Operations Logan Ullyott, pilot for the FAA knowledge and skills test, commented on the regulatory progression saying, “We have been focused on regulations since day one. The FAA was very supportive of DroneSeed and we really appreciate their ability to quickly adapt to the changing landscape. Like us, they’re interested in how drones can make agricultural and forestry operations safer.”
Upon passing the FAA test, DroneSeed became the first and only company in the US with both a 107 multi-vehicle waiver to use drone swarms and a 137 Exemption to spray agricultural substances. Being the first company with both waivers uniquely positions it for forestry and agricultural contracts in 2018 and beyond. CEO Grant Canary speaking about the achievement said, “We’re excited to start fulfilling our existing forestry contracts. We’ve already booked out our capacity for this summer and are now looking at fall projects with our NW customers. We have all been waiting for and working towards this and are excited to get going.”
Though reforestation is a $62 billion industry, tree-planting techniques have not changed in 100 years. Trees are still planted by work crews with shovels which is a slow, expensive, and grueling process for which recruiting labor is a challenge. When asked about why the team launched the business, CEO and co-founder Grant Canary commented, “Trees are the best resource we have to reduce atmospheric CO2. By introducing technology, we make reforestation scalable for both timber companies and restoration efforts to reverse climate change. The only reason forestry didn’t automate sooner was the terrain and precision required. Drones are the obvious technology to overcome terrain issues with flight. However, delivering the precision required has only become possible for our team in the last two years.” DroneSeed is currently managing competitive vegetation for timber companies and will move into restoration of wildfire sites via planting in the next few years. The National Institute for Fire Control recorded approximately 9.5M acres burned in the US in 2016. For comparison, the largest private forestry company in the US owns approximately 13M acres.
Listen to Ian Smith of DroneDeploy interview DroneSeed on CommercialDrones.fm (29min).
DroneSeed offers full lifecycle services for forestry management by using an efficient, cost-competitive fleet of drones to reduce reliance on manual labor. Founded in 2015 by eco-tech startup veteran Grant Canary, CTO Jeff Prouty and VP Operations Logan Ullyott, DroneSeed first won the Beaverton, Oregon $100K Challenge sponsored by the City of Beaverton and Oregon Technology and Business Center. Shortly after, they were one of the nine startups selected for Techstars Seattle 2016 out of over 1,000 applicants to the program. Currently, DroneSeed has signed services contracts with several large private timber companies as well as a watershed restoration project with Portland water utility Clean Water Services (link: http://www.geekwire.com/2016/droneseed/).