Ecosystem restoration company uses drones to bring land back to life on a large scale

Around the world, large areas of land measuring together around 60,000 km2 (23,000 mi2) are used for mining. While we rely on the fuel and minerals from mines, we’ve now seen that we need the land in its forested state to absorb carbon and support biodiversity. In fact, many mines operate under regulations mandating restoration of degraded ecosystems at the end of their operations.

Dendra Systems is a UK-based company that specializes in providing ecosystem restoration services to mining companies based on an overall mission to bring back natural and biodiverse ecosystems.

“What we’re very focused on is biodiversity, which is quite complex,” said Adam Filby, Dendra’s Vice President of Sales. “If you want to restore an environment and bring back all the native flora and fauna, nature can do this successfully on its own. But we live in a world where there’s a lot of human intervention, and nature needs a helping hand. We provide tools that accelerate nature’s ability to heal itself.”

Representing a unique marriage of ecologists and technologists, Dendra uses drones to support eco restoration of land on a large scale and partnering with WingtraOne takes the operations of a project to a whole new level. 

Application
Country
Challenge
Large areas to be mapped with high accuracy, highest safety and reliability required when it comes to equipment

Capturing high-quality data and doing this in a repeatable and sustainable manner is key to our services. With Wingtra we get the consistent and reliable performance we need to ensure faultless delivery at all times.

Andy Boroughs
Operations Development Manager and UAV pilot, Dendra

Dendra uses high-resolution multispectral data for area classification.
A look at how the data is used in the erosion monitoring dashboard for a project.
The high-quality detail in this RGB data enables Dendra to identify rills, which are paths cut in the soil by concentrated water flow. If these rills are not managed, they can become gullies, i.e., larger water passages that carry water away from the flora that need it.

Reviving ecosystems to scale

Right now, a lot of methods exist to draw carbon out of the air and manage it. In fact, it’s becoming a multi-billion dollar industry.

“There are many emerging industrial carbon sequestration solutions,” Filby said. “But a proven way to draw carbon out of the air and store it permanently is to grow trees, restore habitats and bring back biodiversity. You look at the amount of degraded land and you need billions, maybe trillions, of trees to support this level of recovery. Hundreds of millions of hectares of ecosystems need to be restored, and restored fast! To make this a reality you need tools that can do it in a scalable way.”

Planting the amount of trees needed to restore habitats and make any kind of dent in atmospheric carbon levels would be challenging and uneconomical to do manually, Filby said. In fact, drones provide a safe and scalable solution to repair damaged ecosystems. Dendra employs a range of drones both to plant and to analyze the restoration progress of the ecosystems they oversee, in great detail.

“Detail is key to assessing the health of an ecosystem. You can’t use satellite imagery to detect very young trees in early-stage restoration, as it doesn’t provide the resolution needed,” Filby explained. “You can’t see them with airplane data either. Planes fly too fast, and you can’t get close enough to the ground to get the detail required. Biodiverse ecosystems are very complex; you need detail that only drones can provide.”

Andy Boroughs is the operations development manager and a UAV pilot with Dendra. He says WingtraOne presents a “perfect balance of everything Dendra needs in a drone.” Specifically, WingtraOne provides crisp, accurate RGB and multispectral imagery covering 4-500 ha (1000-1200 ac) a day enabling Dendra to monitor the progress of ecosystem restoration projects closely. Plus, it’s convenient to transport.

WingtraOne keeps us agile. Our projects are international, and with Wingtra we are able to easily transport and deploy it anywhere.

Andy Boroughs
Operations Development Manager and UAV pilot, Dendra 

Beyond the fixed-wing to tackle large-scale reforestation

For his first year with Dendra, Boroughs was flying classical fixed-wing eBee Plus drones. However, these systems presented challenges that inspired him to research VTOL technology.

“Fixed-wing drones can be tricky to operate, making take-off and landing a challenge,” he said. “Having WingtraOne’s VTOL capability, for precise and controlled take-off and landing, has been a game changer for us.”

While the fixed-wing payloads offered “decent” results, Boroughs says the upgrade in camera quality that WingtraOne avails has made a clear difference as well:  The Micasense RedEdge is a far more capable camera in terms of multispec. The guys who have analyzed the data for us have said that the multispec data is a lot better than what we were originally getting.”

Beyond all of this, Dendra is pleased with the overall performance of WingtraOne in terms of the time they are saving onsite and a range of safety concerns that they have now been able to address successfully—namely: damage to the drone and environment, and in this case, the curiosity of eagles.

“We’ve spent countless hours protecting our drones from eagles,” Boroughs said. “As an example, we were only meant to be on site half a day and ended up being there for two days mainly because the eagles kept interfering with the mission. So when we returned to the office in Australia, we explored our options and decided that we needed to get a Wingtra.”

WingtraOne flying over trees

From a safety perspective WingtraOne has improved our operations massively. Also from an efficiency perspective, if we were to spend the day in the field mapping the same area with what we had previously, which was the eBees, we’d probably finish the same area with the Wingtra a third quicker.

Andy Boroughs
Operations Development Manager and UAV pilot, Dendra

The right trees in the right place at the right time

Dendra operates in 11 countries with a focus in Australia and Europe. They partner with prominent mining firms to ensure top-grade restoration efforts that are sustainable over the long term. To work with these companies, they must stay on top of every detail.

“We are not turning up with drones we bought for a few thousand dollars,” Filby said. “We are using industrial-grade, market-leading drones to capture this data and to provide accurate and detailed analytics to our customers.”

Dendra’s upgrade to WingtraOne was a choice made not only to get this level of performance, but also to boost reliability and promote the leading-edge ecosystem rehabilitation work that they are doing.

“We have to have an astonishingly tight runbook, and the equipment has to be 100 percent reliable,” Filby said. “We can’t have 95 percent reliable equipment; it’s got to be 100 percent reliable.”

Ecosystems are intricate and unique to their exact locations based on a range of environmental factors. Detailed data is critical to keep track of effective restoration. WingtraOne offers Dendra unprecedented amounts of it.

Biodiverse ecosystem restoration is complex. Taking a data-driven approach improves decision making and helps ensure that desired outcomes are achieved. Wingtra is helping us to deliver to a high standard while working faster.

Adam Filby
Vice President of Sales, Dendra

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