Originally conceptualized in 2015, it took some time to gain the skills and experience needed to design and build this drone and get it off the ground. Since this isn't the first seed planting drone to take flight, I wanted to build something affordable and rugged that could be scaled with multiple units over time. This medium lift drone can carry a payload of up to 2 KG and is capable of autonomous flight using the onboard autopilot. Many of the components and tools required to build this drone can be purchased at a local hardware store, or be available at a local tool library / maker space. The frame makes heavy use of 3D printed components to take advantage of the proliferation of 3D printers over the past decade.
I am incredibly proud of this design and I intend to submit it to Hackaday's Earth Day challenge. The drone is currently capable of autonomous flight and I have begun testing and developing various seed dispersal techniques, stay tuned for future updates.
Xing iflight 1700kv Brushless Motor
Continuous Rotation Servo
500MW Telemetry Module
Batteries and Battery Accessories / Battery Holders, Snaps and Contacts
Its been a long few months since the Hackaday Earth Day challenge was first announced, but I've finally got a working prototype of the Aspen V1. It deployed it's first seeds on a field 2 days ago and has had many successful flights since that time. Please enjoy this "launch" video of my drone and thank you Hackaday for hosting the 2021 earth day challenge!
This is the Aspen V1, a dedicated environmental restoration drone platform for planting seed on a massive scale.
On June 5th 2021, the United Nations will launch the decade on environmental restoration in the aim to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. The simple fact of the matter is, simply conserving nature for future generations is no longer enough, we need to be actively repairing the damage brought on this world over centuries past. Species once considered abundant, even not long ago when I was a child are being pushed to the brink. Forests myself and many friends once explored are now housing subdivisions. We need stewardship solutions and tools that scale massively beyond our current capacity. Locally, regionally, nationally, and globally incredibly talented people have come up with tools and plans to restore our natural environment. We know what we need to do, we just need to turn our plans and resources into action.
To celebrate the launch of the UN decade on environmental restoration and Earth Day 2021 I dusted off some of my old notebooks dating back to 2014 to design and build the Aspen V1. A dedicated environmental restoration drone for spreading seed on a massive scale. This platform can be used for rapidly spreading up to 3kg of different seeds including tree, tallgrass, or wildflower seed! The broadcasting wheels is interchangeable and adaptable for a variety of different seed types. The drone is smart and fully autonomous, built to be capable of completely covering a hectare of land in less than 5 minutes.
It’s not the first seed planting drone ever conceived, since 2014 there have been several successful designs. My desire was to build one for less than $1000 using as many commonly available materials as possible and operated by a minimal crew. Many of the parts are 3D printed using innovative 100% recycled plastic and as much as possible was purchased from local hardware stores. Currently I’m in the process of pushing the limits of what this machine is capable of, but the plan is to put it to work this year if some collaborators are excited to test the machine in partnership.
My passion is this beautiful earth we live on, and my desire is to dedicate my life to preserving and restoring it’s natural beauty. Working in the not for profit and environmental sector has blessed me with the opportunity to develop a somewhat comically wide skill set. This invention is my way of putting some of those skills to use while I look for work after graduation.
In the coming years many of us share a dream where we have halted our production of CO2 and are on a path to a more sustainable future. Part of the path is mitigating the ongoing biodiversity crisis we are facing and restoring the natural environment. We know what we need to do, we just need to put the resources and time into making it all happen. The Aspen V1 will hopefully become a small part of the solution to the big problems we are facing.
So I set to work putting a design together. I went with a slightly different wheel design (Looks cooler too!) that collects several seeds at once for broadcast and dumps them out of the back of the hopper.
So last week I took the Aspen out for a couple of test flights. PID needs a little work, but its in the air and doing what it was designed to do. You can see in the video and image below the payload attachment / hopper. This drone is intended as a seed dispersal drone for restoring tall grass prairie and potentially treated seeds for reforestation projects. (none of you guessed it!) I'll be submitting it to Hackaday's Earth Day Challenge this month.
This weekend I added some landing gear to the drone. I found that it sat way to close to the ground for my liking, so I came up with a pretty smart looking solution that only required minor modifications to the existing frame. My partner says it looks a bit like some bridge in Philly? (I dunno, I've only been to the states once) I don't think I'll be adding any more to the frame at this point except maybe a minimalist protective cover for the PDB (Power distribution brick? :P) and ESCs. Right now it has a dry weight of slightly less than 2KG which is actually slightly less than it was 2 weeks ago. I have some ideas to hopefully shave off ~100g.
Here you can see the drone fully assembled and up close.
Thanks! That's this week's update. Let me know what you think! I've never designed anything this complex before so I'd love to hear your thoughts. Your feedback thus far has been invaluable. Cheers!