As The Guardian reports, while these planes were once used for aerial assaults, they can now drop sapling-containing cones instead of land mines — about 3,000 cones a minute or about 900,000 a day.
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According to Peter Simmons from Lockheed Martin:
Equipment we developed for precision planting of fields of landmines can be adapted easily for planting trees.
…The tree cones are pointed and designed to bury themselves in the ground at the same depth as if they had been planted by hand. They contain fertilizer and a material that soaks up surrounding moisture, watering the roots of the tree.
The containers are metal but rot immediately so the tree can put its roots into the soil.
Lockheed has set up Aerial Forestation Inc., a company to market the idea. But just who might pay for something like this? According the article, the system works well for replacing forests that have disappeared for one reason or another. For example, desert areas like Egypt, where there is already a pilot program in the works, the Scottish mountains, or the Black Forest, part of which was cut down for strategic military purposes during the Cold War.
The turboprop plane, which was originally designed for troop medical evacuation and cargo transport, might someday be used to speed up the process of reforestation post-disaster. For example, when Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, it took nearly 25 years for wind-blown seeds to take root to begin to regrow the forest that the super-heated pyroclastic flow leveled. Perhaps with this new way of planting we can accomplish the Herculean task of regrowing an entire forest in less than a decade.
This is what human achievement hour is all about: using human intelligence, creativity, and technology — not government interference or mandated conservation to come up with the solutions of the future.