Dronecoria: Drone for Forest Restoration

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About: We made and fly open source drones since 2011. Pioneers sharing with people how to fly,

Together, we can reforest the world.

Drone technology combined with native coated seeds will revolutionize the efficiency of ecosystem restoration. We created a set of open sourcetools, to use drones for sowing seedballs of wild seeds with efficient microorganisms for ecological restoration,making easier the seeding at industrial scale and low cost.

Drones can analyze the terrain and sow with precision hectares in minutes. Sowing a combination of thousands of trees and herbaceous for carbon fixation, turning every seed into a winner, making green large-scale landscapes at low cost, with the power of open-source and digital fabrication.

We share this technology to individuals, ecologist teams and restoration organizationsaround the world, for dramatically improve the traditional forest seeding.

Dronecoria represents a new area of symbiotic devices, produced by biological and technological processes, revealing the potential impact of interaction between ecologies and robotic systems on critical environments. Relies on mechanisms borrowed from cybernetics, robotics and permaculture, to sow seeds from affordable wooden made drones. Allowing accurately positioning of each new seedling, increasing the chance of survival.

Specs:

  • Total weight without payload: 9,7Kg.
  • Flying time without payload: 41min.
  • Maximum payload: 8kg of seeds.
  • Autonomy: Can sow in autopilot one hectare in 10 minutes, around 5 seeds by square meter, with a speed of 5 m/s.
  • Production cost: 1961,75 US$

License:

All files are licensed with Creative Commons BY-SA, this perfectly allow to make profit with this project (please do it!) You only are required to give us attribution (dronecoria.org), and if you made any improvement, you should share it with the same license.

Step 1: Acquire the Materials

Attention:

If this is the first drone you make, we recommend to start with smaller and safer drones, like the wooden, small, and also open source drone: flone intructable. Dronecoria is too powerful to be your first drone!

Where to Build/Buy:

The cost of the complete drone with two batteries, and a radio controller is less than 2000 US$. You should look for a laser cut service for cutting the wood, and a 3D printing service for the sowing mechanism. Good places to ask should be FabLab's and MakerSpaces.

We place here the links to different online stores like Banggood, Hobbyking, or T-Motor, where to buy the components, most of them you can also found them on eBay. Keep in mind that depends on your country, you will be able to find a closer or cheaper supplier.

Please check the right legal frecency of the telemetryradio for your country, normally is 900 Mhz for America and 433Mhz for Europe.

Our batteries of 16000 mAh allowed the aircraft to fly without payload for 41 minutes, but due to the nature of the operations, fly to an area, deliver the seeds as soon as possible (it takes 10 minutes around), and land, smaller and lighter batteries are also recommended.

Airframe

  • Plywood 250 x 122 x 0,5 cm $28

Electronics

    Various

    Total: 1961,75 US$

    Possible customs expenses, TAX or shipping costs, are not included in this budget.

    Step 2: Cut and Ensemble the Airframe

    In this step we will follow the process of build and assemble the frame of the drone.

    This frame is made in plywood, like historic radio controlled planes, this also means, that can be repaired with glue, and is compostable if there is an accident and brakes.

    Plywood is a very good material, allowing us to make a lightweight drone and low-cost. Weights 1.8 kg and can cost a couple of hundreds dollars, instead of thousands.

    Digital fabrication allow us an easy replication, and sharing the design withyou!

    In the video, and the attached instructions, you will see how it looks the process of mounting the frame.

    First you should download the files and find a place with a laser cutter to cut them. Once si done, this are the main assembling steps:

    1. You need to get use with the pieces, every arm is identified by numbers. To start building the arms, order the pieces of every arm.
    2. Start assembling the upper part of each arm. glue or use zipties to get the connection strong.
    3. Do the same with the lower part of the arms.
    4. Blend this last part to fit the rest of the arm.
    5. Finish the arms adding the landing gear.
    6. Finally, use the top and bottom plates to put all arms together.

    And that’s it!

    In the next step, you will learn how to mount the 3D Printed part to drop the seeds, we wait for you there!

    Step 3: 3D Print and Ensemble the Seed Dispenser

    We designed a 3D printed seed-release system, that can be screwed to any PVC water bottle like a tap, for use plastic bottles as a seed containers.

    Bottles can be used as a low weight - low cost, recipient of Nendo Dango seed balls, as a payload for drones. The release mechanism is in the neck of the bottle, the servo motor controls the opened diameter, allowing the automatic open and control, of the rate of sowing of the seeds failing out of the bottle.

    This are the materials that you will need:

    • A plastic bottle with big bottleneck.
    • The 3D printed mechanism.
    • A ziptie.
    • Five M3x16mm Screws and Nuts,
    • A screwdriver.
    • A servo.
    • Something to connect to the servo, like a flight controller, radio receiver, or servo tester.

    For aerial vehicles we recommend digital servos, because the digital circuit filters the noise, reducing battery consumption, extending flight time, and not producing any electronic noise that can affect the flightcontroller.

    We recommend the EMAX ES09MD servo, have a good quality/price balance, and includes metallic gears.

    You can order online the parts in Shapeways, or download and print the parts by yourself.

    The assembly is very simple:

    1. Just place the ring over the screw piece.
    2. Screw one by one each of the screws, attaching the small pieces to the main body, placing the nuts at the end.
    3. Place the servo in his place, fixing it with the zip tie. Is recommended to use also the screw that comes with the servo, to fix it more firmly.
    4. Fit the gear to the axis of the servo. (In the video is glued, but it's not any more necessary.
    5. To test it: connect the servo to a servo tester, and drop some seeds :)

    Feel free to check the vídeo, to see the assembling process in detail !

    Step 4: Electronics

    Once the frame, and the sowing mechanism are assembled, is time to do the electronic part.

    WARNING!

    • Do the soldering properly, made a bad connection can have catastrophic consequences, like the totally loose of the aircraft, or accidents.
    • Use a generous quantity of solder since some wires will support high amperages.
    • Only connect the batteries when all safety checks are done. You should check (with a tester) that there are not short-circuits between wires.
    • Never put the propellers until everything is well configured. Placing the propellers is ALWAYS the last step.

    For this part of the process, you should have all the electronic components:

      • 6 Motors P60 179KV.
      • 6 ESC Flame 60A.
      • 2 LiPo Batteries 6S.
      • 1 FlightBoard Pixhawk 4
      • 1 GPS Module.
      • 2 Radio Telemetry Transceivers.
      • 1 Radio Receiver.
      • 2 AS150 Battery connectors.
      • 6 MT60 three wire connector.
      • Battery strap.
      • 1 meter Black cable 12 AWG
      • 1 meter Red cable 12 AWG.
      • 1 meter Black cable 10 AWG
      • 1 meter Red cable 10 AWG.
      • 24 screws for the motors. M4 x 16.

      And some tools like:

      • Solder & soldering iron.
      • Heat Shrink tubing insulation
      • Adhesive tape.
      • Velcro
      • Third hand for soldering.
      • Double sided tape.

      So let’s go!

      Motors and ESC

      From each motor there is three cables, to avoid electromagnetic interferences with the rest of the electronic equipment, is a good idea to plait the wires, in order to reduce this interferences, also the length of this connection should be as short as possible.

      This three cables from the motors should be wired to the three cables of the ESC, the order of this wires depends the final direction of the motors, you should swap two wires to change the direction. Check the scheme for the right direction of each motor.

      To make the final wiring you can use the MT60 with the three connectors: solder the cables from the motor to the male connector, and the three wires from the ESC to the female connector.

      Just repeat this 6 times for each couple Motor-ESC.

      Now you can screw the motors to each arm using the M4 screws. Place also the ESC’s inside the frame and connect each motor with the corresponding ESC.

      Flight Controller

      Use a double sided vibrating isolation tape to place the flight board to the frame, is important that you use a right tape in order to isolate the board from vibrations. Check that the arrow of the flight board is in the same direction of the arrow of the frame.

      Power Distribution Board.

      The PDB is the electric hearth of the drone that powers every element. All ESC are wired there to get the voltage from the Battery. This PDB has integrated a BEC to power all elements that require 5V, like the flight controller and the electronics. Also mesure the electric consumption of the aircraft in order to know the battery left.

      • Solder the battery connectors to the PDB.

      The P60 motors that we use are designed to work in 12S (44 Volts) since our batteries are 6S, they should be connected in serial for adding the voltage of each one. Each battery has 22.2 Volts, if we connect the batteries in series we will obtain 44.4 V.

      The easiest way to wire batteries in serie is with the AS150 connector, this allow us to connect directly one battery to the other and the positive and negative of each battery to the PDB.

      If your battery have a different connector, you can easily change the connector to the AntiSpark AS150 or use an adapter.

      Start soldering the 10 AWG wires to the PDB, use sufficient cable to arrive from the position of the PDB to the batteries. Then finish soldering the AS150 connectors. Please take care of the right polarity.

      • Solder ESC’s to the PDB.

      The energy from the batteries go directly to the PDB, and then from the PDB the power goes to the six different ESC. Start placing the PDB in their designed place and screw it or use velcro to fixit to the frame.

      Solder the two wires, positive and negative of each ESC to the PDB with the 12 AWG wire, this PDB can support up to 8 motors, but we will use the connections only for six motors, so solder ESC by ESC, positive and negative, to the PDB.

      Each ESC comes with a three wire conector, you would pick the white wire of signal of this connector and solder it to the specified position in the PDB.

      Finally, wire the PDB with the designed port to the flight board,

      GPS & Arm Button & Buzzer

      This GPS has integrated a button to arm the aircraft and a buzzer to trigger an alarm or beep different signals.

      Place the base of the GPS in the marked position and screw it to the frame, take care of build a solid attachment without vibrations or movement, then connect it to the flightboard with the specified cables.

      Telemetry

      Typically you will need a pair of devices, one for the aircraft and one for the ground station. Place one telemetry transceiver in the desired position and use velcro or double sided tape to fix in their position. Connect it to the flight board with the specific port.

      Radio Receiver

      Place the radio receiver in the designed place, fixing it with velcro or double sided tape, then put the antenas as far away as possible, and attach them safely to the frame with tape. Wire the receiver to the flight board as you can see in the scheme.

      Step 5: Software Configuration

      Tip:

      We made this Instructable as complete as possible, with the essential instructions needed to have the flight controller ready to fly. For the full configuration, you can always consult the official documentation of the Ardupilot / PixHawk projects, in case of something is unclear or the firmware is updated to a new version.

      For do this step you should have internet connection to download and install the required software and firmware.

      As a ground station, to configure and execute flight plans in arducopter-based vehicles, you can use APM Planner 2 or QGroundControl, both works well in all platforms, Linux, Windows and OSX. (QGroundControl even in Android)

      So the first step will be download and install the Ground Station of your choose to your computer.

      Depending of your operating system maybe you need to install a extra driver to connect to the board.

      Once is installed, connect the flight controller to your computer via the USB cable, select Install Firmware, as airframe, you should select the hexacopter drone with + configuration, this will download the last firmware to your computer and upload-it to the drone. Don’t interrupt this process or disconnect the cable meanwhile the upload.

      Once the firmware is installed, you can connect to the drone, and do the configuration of the aircraft, this configuration should be done only one time or every time that a new firmware is upgraded. Since is a big aircraft, could be better to configure first the connection with a wireless link with the telemetry radios to easy move the drone without a wired cable.

      Radio Telemetry connection.

      Connect the USB-Radio to your computer, and power on the drone using the batteries.

      Then, connect also the batteries to the drone, and click on connect in the Ground Station, depending of your operating system a different port can appear by default, normally with the Port in AUTO, a solid connection should be done.

      If not ,check that you are using the right port, and the right speed in this port.

      ESC Calibration.
      In order to configure the ESC’s with the minimum and maximum Throttle value, an ESC calibration should be performed. The easiest way to do this is through Mission Planer, clicking on ESC Calibration and following the steps on the screen. If you have doubts you can check section of ESC calibration in the official documentation.

      Calibration of the accelerometer.

      To calibrate the accelerometer you will need a flat surface, then you should click in the button of Calibrate Accelerometer and follow the instructions on the screen, they will ask you to put the drone in different positions and press the button each time, the positions should be level, on the left side, on the right side, nose up and nose down.

      Calibration of the magnetometer.

      To calibrate the magnetometer, once the button Calibrate Magnetometer is pressed, you should move the full aircraft 360 degrees in order to do a full calibration, the screen will assist you in the process, and alert you when is done.

      Pair to the radio receiver.

      Follow the instructions of your radio controller to bind the emitter and the receiver. Once the connection is done you will see the signals arriving to the flight controller.

      Configuring the servo for seed release

      The seed release system, for the flight controller, can be configured as a camera, but instead of take a photo, drop seeds :)

      The camera configuration is under Trigger Modes, different modes are supported, just select the one woks better for your mission:

      1. Works like a basic intervalometer that can be enabled and disabled. Automatic open and close.
      2. Switches the intervalometer constantly on. The drone is always dropping seeds. Maybe not so useful since we will lost some seeds during take off.
      3. Triggers based on distance. Will be useful in manual flights to drop seeds with specific frequency on the ground with independence of the speed of the aircraft. The system opens the door every time the set horizontal distance is exceeded.
      4. Triggers automatically when flying a survey in Mission mode. Useful to plan the places to drop the seeds from the Ground Station.

      Our frame works well with the standard configuration, so no specific configuration needs to be done.

      Step 6: Fly and Perform Reforestation Projects!

      Mapping the Territory.
      After a fire, or to recover a degraded area, the first step would be to perform a damage assessment and document the current state before any intervention. For this task drones are a fundamental tool because they document faithfully the state of the land. To perform these tasks we can use a conventional drone, or cameras that capture the near infrared that will able us to see the photosynthetic activity of the plants.

      The more infrared light reflected, the plants will be healthier. Depending on the amount of terrain affected, we could use multirotors, which can have a mapping capacity of about 15 hectares per flight, or opt for a fixed wing, which could map up to 200 hectares in a single flight. The resolution to choose depends on what we want to observe. To perform a first evaluation, with resolutions of 2 to 5 cm per pixel would be sufficient.

      For further evaluations, when looking to check the evolution of seed sown in an area, it may be advisable to perform samplings with resolutions around 1 cm/pixel to see the growth.

      Flight around 23 meters of altitude will get 1cm/pixel and flights at 70 meters will obtain a resolution of 3 cm/pixel.

      To make the Orthophoto and digital model of the terrain, we can use free tools like PrecissionMapper or OpenDroneMap that is also Free Software.

      Once the orthophoto is done, please upload it to Open Aerial Map, to share with others the state of the land.

      Analysis and classification of the Territory

      When we have rebuilt the orthophoto, this image, usually in geoTIFF format, contains the geographical coordinates of each pixel, so any recognizable object in the image has associated its 2D, latitude and longitude coordinates in the real world.

      Ideally, to understand the territory, we should also work with 3D data and analyze its elevation characteristics, with the aim of locating the ideal places to sow.

      • Surface Classification and segmentation

      The area to be reforested, the density and type of species will be determined by a Biologist, Ecologist, Forestry Engineer, or professional of the restoration, and also by legal or political questions.

      As approximate value, we can point to 50,000 seeds per hectare, this would be 5 seeds per square metre. This surface to be sown will be circumscribed within the previously mapped area. Once determined the potential area to be reforested, the first necessary classification would be differentiate the real area to sow, and where not.

      You should identify as NON-sowing zones:

      • Infrastructures: Roads, constructions, roads.
      • Water: Rivers, lakes, flooded areas.
      • Non-fertile surfaces: rocky areas, or with large stones.
      • Inclined Land: with a slope greater than 35%.

      So this first step would be to make the segmentation of the territory to the areas to perform the seeding.

      We could sow filling these areas, producing a vegetation cover, avoid erosion and begin as soon as possible with the recovery of the soil.

      Sowing with drones
      Once we have constructed these polygons where to sow, to make a complete filling of the surface with seeds, we should know the sowing width path that can open the Seeder drone, and the height of flight established, to make a complete tour of the territory, with a separation between paths of this known width.

      The speed will also determine the number of seeds per square metre, but we will try to maximize the speed, to minimize the flight time and to carry out the sowing operation per hectare in the minimum possible time. Assuming that we fly at 20 km/hour this would be about 5 meters per second, if we have a path width of 10 meters, in one second would cover a surface of 50 square meters, so we should throw 250 seeds per second to cover the target raised 5 seeds per squared meter.

      We hope that you will have nice flights restoring ecosystems.
      We need you for fight against wild fires.

      If you arrived here, you have in your hands a very powerful tool, a drone capable of reforest an hectare in just 8 minutes. But this power is a big responsibility, use ONLY NATIVE SEEDS for not make any interference with the ecosystem.

      If you want to collaborate, have issues to be resolved, or you have good ideas to improve this project, we are organized in the wikifactory site, so please use this platform to grow the project.

      Thanks again to help us to make a greener planet.

      Dronecoria Team.


      This manual is made by:

      Lot Amorós (Aeracoop)

      Weiwei Cheng Chen (PicAirDrone)

      Salva Serrano (Ootro Studio)

      Step 7: Bonus Track: Coat Your Own Seeds for Aerial Sowing

      Powerful Seeds (Semillas Poderosas) is a project that we made to make accessible the knowledge around the organic seed coating, putting light on the type of ingredients and the production methodology with low-cost materials.

      In the recovery of degraded land, whether by fires or infertile soils, seed pelletizing can be a key factor in improving the sowing and reducing seed costs and environmental needs.

      We hope that this information will be useful for farmers and conservationists to make restoration projects, pelletizing their seeds themselves, increasing the viability of the seeds, ensuring that the seeds will be protected against fungi and predators during germination, adding microbiology for an increasing soil fertility.

      We have developed this tutorial using a conventional cement mixer, and a water sprayer to pelletize large quantities of seeds. To pelletize smaller seeds, a bucket can be applied to the mixer. Our 3-layer method:

      1. First Layer:Bioprotection. Natural compounds that allow to protect the seed against harmful agents such as fungi and bacteria. The main natural fungicides are: garlic, nettle, ash,horsetail, cinnamon, diatom.
      2. Second Layer:Nutrition. They are natural organic fertilizers produced by beneficial soil microorganisms, which produce a synergy with the roots. Main biofertilizers: Earthworm Humus, compost, liquid fertilizer, efficient microorganisms.
      3. Third Layer:External protection. Natural compounds that allow to protect the seed against external agents, such as predators, sun and dehydration. Agents against insects: ash, garlic, diatomaceous earth, clove, turmeric tobacco, cayenne, Lavender. Agents against external factors: Clay, hydrogel, charcoal, lime dolomitic.

      In between: Binders. Coating materials are bonded through binder or adhesive substances, preventing layers of coverage from breaking or tearing. These binders can be: Plantago, alginate, agar.agar, arabic gum, gelatin, vegetable oil, milk powder, casein, honey, starch or resins.

      We recommend that you start with small controls until you master the technique. The process is simple, but requires experience until you know the right amounts.

      The solid ingredients should be applied very thin, and very little by little, not to form lumps or to create pellets without seeds inside. The liquid components are applied through a pulverizer as thin as possible, which does not produce drops. Minimum amounts of liquid are applied between material and material to improve the adhesion of the dust on the balls. Some materials need more binders than others because they can be more stickers. If you stick the balls together you can separate them with your hands very carefully, as they can break. A good pelletization should not need mechanical separation.

      In the video you will see an example of the coating process of Eruca Sativa. Note that this is an example, you can combine different components for coating, depending on the deficiencies or potential soil and seeds, also from predators as well, or availability of the ingredients in your region. For this tutorial me made also the attached list of posible ingredients that you can use.

      As a binder we will use agar agar. As bio-protection agent we will use diatomaceous earth. As components of nutrition, charcoal, also compost, dolomite and liquid biofertilizer. Clay and turmeric for the outer protection layer.

      The most important element is the seed, which must not have suffered any type of process with agrochemicals.

      • The biofertilizer is diluted in water in proportions of one in ten. In this case 50 cubic centimeters in half a liter of water. The liquid preparation is in a liquid sprayer and we give-it a load of 15 compressions.
      • We deposit the seeds in the machine, and spray them with water. Sprays should be as small as possible so that lumps do not form. Then we turn on the machine and start with the coating.
      • With your hands you can gently separate the seeds if stick between them.
      • We add diatomaceous powder and mix to form an homogeneous mix, then we add water disarming the lumps.
      • Charcoal is added to the mixture and repeating the water spray, then add dolomite or calcareous earth.
      • Once the layers are well formed, substrate is added as thin as possible. For achieve this you can use a filter.
      • The clay is added generously mixing well with the seeds. Finally for the outer protection layer, we decided to incorporate turmeric.
      • Pelleted seeds should be dried outdoors in the shade, otherwise they can brake.

      And that's it! Have a nice time creating a wonderful ecosystem !

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        14 Discussions

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        Gusgonnet

        5 days ago

        amazing project and drone, congrats!!!

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        erguro

        12 days ago

        Impressive project! Well done I really like it
        Congrats

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        weaseltinker

        15 days ago

        Will this work on an iphone? Fantastic job and a beautiful instructable!

        1 reply
        0
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        M.C. Langer

        19 days ago

        This is an awesome project and perfectly documented! I wish you all the best in the contest. You deserve it!!!

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        nvarona

        20 days ago

        Perfect proyect DIY, felicitats per compartir tu passió !!!

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        JohnSmith-Workshop

        20 days ago

        My mind was blown. Incredible job mate. You have my vote. :)

        1
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        DIY-Guy

        Question 22 days ago

        Last time I wanted to make a drone to drop something, it was mentioned that the FAA considers releasing (or dropping) something to be "bombing." Does anyone know if this still applies in USA? I would like to help a neighbor seed their pasture with wildflowers.

        1 answer
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        mrfusi0nDIY-Guy

        Answer 21 days ago

        As a private pilot, I know that part 91 of Federal Aviation Regulations (91.15) states that you CAN drop objects from an airplane. Technically it says you cannot drop objects if it poses any risk to people/property. It looks like similar rules apply to drones in FAR 107.23 but I'm not an expert on that and not a licensed drone pilot. Here's the verbiage they use:
        "No person may:
        (a) Operate a small unmanned aircraft system in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another; or
        (b) Allow an object to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft in a manner that creates an undue hazard to persons or property."

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        Simon_Cloutier

        22 days ago

        Really nice project there ! I think you have the best solution in hand and hope for you that the governement will clearly see the benefit of your idea and help you with your bussiness !!

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        afcondon

        22 days ago

        This is a fantastic project, i love it.

        One thing you might have to factor in is that different countries / regions have different "standard" plastic bottle cap thread sizes...