New Robots Are Dedicated to Planting Trees En Masse


We hear the robots may take over many of our jobs. It’s true. We hear that robots are becoming more agile, more graceful, and more able to problem-solve on their own. Also true.

But what about robots that can plant more than a thousand trees per hour?

In Estonia, researchers from the University of Tartu and a robotics company called Milrem have been collaborating on a new autonomous robot dedicated to tree-planting.

David Hambling reports in the January 2021 issue of New Scientist that the scientists based these robot designs on Milrem’s line of self-driving vehicles.

Like police officers on the beat, these robots work in pairs as partners.

The Planter Robot

For planting, one of the robots – they look very similar – can plant a full acre of new forest in about two hours. The planter carries more than 300 seedlings in each batch. This robot also records the precise location of each tree it has planted.

The Trimmer Robot

The planter’s partner is the trimmer. The trimming machine can cut back brush and vegetation around the seedlings to make sure they receive enough light and water to grow.

Both robots use cameras and global positioning systems (GPS), as well as a laser-based system called LiDAR to “see” their surroundings. LiDAR makes a geometric representation of the ground the robots will cover, using a combination of high-res images from the cameras and 3D modeling software.

If this new technology brings more healthy young trees into the world, it is tough to oppose it. New, beautiful trees, more oxygen, and more work for tree service companies. Everybody wins.