Skip to main content

An estimated 20 million birch seeds have been scattered on the hillside above the A83 at the Rest and Be Thankful thanks to Forestry and Land Scotland’s use of drone technology.

The drone seeding is the latest phase in efforts by Forestry and Land Scotland, working with Transport Scotland, to reduce the likelihood of landslips on the notorious stretch of road. The technique – new to FLS - is being tested and evaluated by FLS partners, Forest Research and Auto Spray Sytems.

Planting native tree species on these slopes will ensure that over time an extensive root system will develop through the soils, improving soil structure as well as to reduce the effects of surface erosion on much of the exposed mineral soils. 

The seeds were dispersed in a matter of hours over areas of the landslip, which were able to access, which would have taken weeks to cover by hand planting. 

James Hand, said;

“This is a major innovation that we expect will soon be adopted across the country as we work to adapt our forests and the wider landscape such that they can better withstand the impact of a changing climate.

“Planting within the landslip area would have been virtually impossible given the risk of dislodging boulders and unsafe conditions for people to work within. The drone and the team from Auto Spray Systems made short work of covering an area of approximately 12ha.

“If only 1 per cent of those seeds is successful that will mean 200,000 trees will soon be growing on this slope, their roots slowly binding the soil and making it much more stable. In effect we’ll be capturing carbon emissions in these growing trees and putting it to work to protect road users and the carriageway.

“This is only the first section of the site to which we’ve adopted this method. However, we intend to reapply a number of times as part of an ongoing trial with Forest Research.  To potentially adopt in other landslip locations which are nearby, over the next few years.   Further trials into other capabilities for which the drone could have, such a lifting materials onto site, will also potentially be trialled as well”

After building a temporary ‘landing pad’ on the hillside, the drone was loaded with seeds and a flight plan programmed in. This ensured that the drone maintained a steady altitude above ground level, which combined with perfect weather conditions, meant that the seeds reached the target area.

As well as planning further drone flights at the A83, the technique has huge potential to be used at other difficult and potentially dangerous locations around the country.


Notes to editors

  1. Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) manages forests and land owned by Scottish Ministers in a way that supports and enables economically sustainable forestry; conserves and enhances the environment; delivers benefits for people and nature; and supports Scottish Ministers in their stewardship of Scotland's national forests and land.

  2. |

  3. Media enquiries to Paul Munro, Media Manager, Forestry and Land Scotland Media Office 07785 527590 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.