The Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and ADQ, have partnered with Dendra, an international environmental technology company, to leverage advanced seeding drones and AI technologies to assess and restore terrestrial and coastal ecosystems across Abu Dhabi.

Under the agreement, a set of innovative solutions based on data and advanced artificial intelligence technology will be employed in the areas of preserving environmental habitats and local species and restoring the ecological balance in the wild habitats in Abu Dhabi and mangrove areas. The partnership will support EAD’s initiatives in assessing the condition of terrestrial and coastal habitats and increasing environmental information about them. Dendra will provide the expertise and foundational infrastructure to scale restoration activities benefitting desert and coastal areas, while ADQ will model an approach to biodiversity risk mitigation by enabling the preservation of natural ecosystems as an integral part of a healthy, resilient economy.

The first arid restoration trial is already underway in Al Dhafra Region, utilising drones to carry out aerial seeding on desert land. Dendra’s method and its advanced approach in relying on drones has overcome the obstacles associated with traditional seed dispersal methods. It also achieved an acceleration of the rate of cultivation increasing the rate of planting whilst providing the ability to access remote areas. This is in addition to allowing the reintroduction of native species to an arid ecosystem without the use of irrigation by selecting areas that receive the largest amounts of rainfall annually. Each seeding drone is capable of carrying 53 species at a time and seed an area the size of over 100 football fields per day. The technology applied by Dendra also enables traceability, with drones recording the exact planting location for each bag of seeds and monitoring restoration success.

EAD will guide and oversee the analysis phase of the trial to determine feasibility of future large-scale terrestrial habitat rehabilitation projects. Furthermore, EAD’s environmentalists together with an experienced team from Dendra crafted an extensive field survey, capitalising on cutting-edge drone technologies. This groundbreaking approach leverages remote sensing to capture images that seamlessly align with EAD's habitat vegetation maps and extensive database, covering a vast expanse of 10,000 hectares for meticulous monitoring.

Ahmed Al Hashmi, Executive Director of Terrestrial and Marine Biodiversity Sector at Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, said: “In partnership with ADQ and Dendra, we are embarking on a significant mission to achieve a deeper understanding of the natural vegetation habitats of Abu Dhabi and their interactions with human influences. These influences range from the challenges posed by overgrazing to the vital role played by the government through establishment and responsible management of protected areas. This partnership seeks to build a comprehensive information foundation, enabling us to secure and protect our critical and fragile natural habitats with data that balances preservation and establishes effective management practices. Based on this data we will be using drone technology to rehabilitate habitats for the greater goal of conserving our native terrestrial and marine ecosystems.”

Anas Jawdat Al Barguthi, Chief Operating Officer at ADQ, said: “As our nation makes headway towards realising sustainability objectives, the preservation and regeneration of our natural ecosystems must be a priority for local organisations. Together with Dendra, we are building an R&D-powered supply chain to bring native plant species back to Abu Dhabi’s deserts and mangroves, which restores balance and boosts ecosystem health. Our stewardship actions benefit the environment under the umbrella of our wider ESG aspirations, but also play an important role in driving sustainable economic development by strengthening climate resilience.”

Dr Susan Graham, CEO at Dendra, said: “Dendra was born out of the realisation that the rate of land degradation is higher than the rate of land restoration, which calls for urgent action. Combining our efforts with ADQ allows us to strengthen R&D and drive lasting transformation by restoring local ecosystems that have been adversely affected by external stressors. Our technology is superior in biodiversity, scalability and traceability. This provides us with the capability to conserve, rehabilitate and restore ecosystems with distinctive challenges. As is the case in Abu Dhabi, which spans several hundred thousand hectares of difficult-to-access arid landscapes and 600 kilometres of coastline. We look forward to working closely with ADQ and facilitating greater cooperation between stakeholders that are on a shared mission to act responsibly and drive sustainable restoration.”