01 May Drone engineering reaches new heights
Every so often a news story crosses our desks that truly makes us pause what we’re doing and discuss. This week, the story that most impressed us is the plan by an ex-NASA engineer to use drones to plant up to one billion trees a year, without having to plant each one by hand.
The cost? An estimated 15 percent of the conventional replantation techniques. Whereas traditional methods require hand planting and are time and manpower intensive, the drones only require two operators (who actually control multiple drones). First, the drones fly above an area and report on its potential for restoration, then they descend to two or three metres above ground and release pods containing seeds that are pre-germinated and covered in a nutritious hydrogel.
Although still at prototype phase, this is a feat of ground-breaking engineering that has the potential to significantly change the world for the better. Even if this prototype fails the idea still exists. One of the best things about innovation in engineering is that if an idea is worth the effort, normally, even if there is failure the first, second, third, or 100th time of trying something, it is only a matter of time until success is achieved. Even then, ideas and products can be further improved.
No innovation sums this up more perfectly than the development of the lightbulb. Thomas Edison is famously regarded as the inventor of the lightbulb after 999 failed attempts, but not many are aware of Englishman Humphrey Davy, who more than 70 years earlier first demonstrated an electric lamp to the Royal Society. However, limited by the technology of the day, Davy wasn’t able to develop the idea of the lightbulb and it was eventually Edison that made the breakthrough.
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