I recently read an article about RobotPruners, and their use at the Eden Project. Essentially, this is a small Hydrogen AirShip, connected to a Computer which moves around Eden's environment, cutting back plants, where necessary.

I suspect for the Eden Project, these are largely there because they look impressive. There probably are not really Robots, but radio controlled devices. However, I think the idea could be scaled up, to enable a more environmentally friendly form of EnvironmentalSlashAndBurn.

Imagine a RobotPruner about the size of a car, moving through Forest, chopping off the top half metre or so of each of the trees. This would probably have relatively little impact on any wildlife; the top of a tree is not very strong, so most animals don't use it, either for feeding or for nesting. The branches at this point are also fairly thin, so cutting them is not too much effort.

Of course, the amount of Energy extractable from the top of a tree is not every much. There is no way at all that this is going to be economically viable, if these have to be radio controlled; so, there would be a requirement for these RobotPruners to be entirely automatic. This level of automation would require a fairly significant advance in Computer control; the image recognition problems would be fearsome. However, it's not totally impossible and computer technology gets more and more capable of this sort of functionality every year.

Of course, there is still the requirement to make use of the Wood extracted. A RobotPruner this size is far too small for any real Generator technology, so you would probably want quite a number of these connected to some form of mother ship which would do the actual Energy extraction. This would also be a good place for refuge when the wind was too high, as an AirShip of this size would be very sensitive to wind.

Updated: 06-05-08
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