Can Drones Cut Down Carbon Emissions?

There is a direct correlation between human activity and carbon emissions in the atmosphere. The main causes are fossil fuel use, agriculture, and deforestation. With the exploding population, global demand for resources and consumption also increases which in turn contributes to the increased carbon emissions in the transport, commerce and agricultural industries. The drone is a  new and interesting way to help combat this issue.

Drone Deliveries:

Transportation is a big cause of carbon emissions. Delivery drones can make a big impact on reducing such emissions for small packages. According to researchers, this reduction depends on where and how the electricity is generated but drones beat petrol and diesel delivery vehicles in carbon emissions. Even if the power generation grid is heavily coal-driven drones can beat electric vehicles in carbon reduction!

Amazon is working on its vision to make half its shipments net zero carbon by 2030. Drones leave a much lower environmental impact than ground-based delivery methods, including diesel trucks, trucks powered by natural gas or even electric vans. Drones are powered by batteries. Drones have to live up to their green potential, and plugging into clean power sources is vital. Solar power is a blessing here. California frequently generates more electricity than its people can use. In a study, it was concluded that a 1 pound package delivered by a drone in California would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54% compared with a diesel truck. The same delivery in Missouri, which gets the maximum of its electricity from coal, would result in a reduction of 23%.

Direct monitoring of Carbon emissions:

We can identify the sources of emissions and then develop strategies to limit or eliminate them. Carbon emissions besides CO2 like methane must also be considered.

Drones equipped with sensors can provide low-cost identification of unwanted emission sources quite rapidly. These could be across industries like oil & gas, transport, agriculture and from soils and animals, as also emissions from landfills.

They cut down on research costs and can travel to places humans can’t.

Monitoring Deforestation:

Deforestation is a key issue in the carbon cycle. Burning of forests waste or its natural decomposition by bacteria to create methane emissions. Deforestation creates more carbon emissions than all the cars and trucks of the world combined.

Drones offer a low cost and effective platform to collect data and monitor key locations to identify deforestation changes over time and help understand the impact of deforestation activities. 

Seeding drones can also be used in repairing the damage.  A UK based start-up BioCarbon Engineering uses drones to plant germinated seeds to replace trees lost to deforestation. The drone program is more successful than current efforts using helicopter-based seeding.

Increasing Agricultural Efficiency:

Drones equipped with appropriate sensors can detect irrigation issues like leaks and clogs. They can also analyze soil conditions and observe differences between healthy and unhealthy crops. Drones can be used to create multispectral images of the same and reduce the farmer’s work of the survey. 

Drones to improve Solar Efficiency

Researchers at Cornell University used drones to measure surface reflectivity, logging of the amount of solar energy a landscape reflects and absorbs. This measurement is important to understand climate change and can help forest planners determine which locations to plant trees to get the maximum climate benefit. Satellites typically gathered this information in the past, but drones have the advantage over them.

Underwater drones to help analyze climate change:

We typically think of drones as being aerial, but they can also help us explore underwater environments. Researchers can deploy underwater drones in order to collect water and sediment samples, and use that data to analyze the impacts of climate change and human activities on ocean ecosystems. This way is better than sending human divers to collect samples.