Land reclamation is common practice across the energy sector and is a process that involves restoring a disturbed land to its original state, or oftentimes, an improved state. 

For example, this case study of oil sand reclamation in Canada shows that 26 million trees have been planted on oil sand reclaimed land between 2009 and 2018 alone. 

As a result of fulfilling their responsibilities of reclamation, guided and governed by bodies specializing in determining industrial standards and policies, we’ve seen several areas rejuvenated by the presence and actions of many energy companies. For example, the government of Alberta demands 100% efficiency in reclamation, and recognizes/rewards those who go above and beyond. 

In the interest of finding new, innovative ways to make these reclamation efforts more efficient and more effective, we have begun to see the adoption of drone technology as a way to compensate for the challenges and limitations of traditional methods. 

The Traditional Method: Description, Failure and Challenges 

The basic procedures of land reclamation, after sufficient planning and designing, includes; 

  • Reshaping of the earth’s surface
  • Putting back the topsoil, subsoil and all other materials disturbed during the exploration activities
  • Revegetation
  • Assessment of water and soil quality
  • Overall reclamation inspection 

Traditional methods of land reclamation involve a mix of machines (tractors, trucks, and ATVs) and human laborers to carry out the above-listed operations. 

Although the traditional method has seen success, there are still a few shortcomings that have spurred energy companies to embrace alternatives.

Failures and Challenges 

Human Error

The traditional method of land reclamation requires significant human input, from the planning and calculations required to agree on a strategy to the drivers of the heavy machinery. The high level of human involvement gives room for increased errors that can affect the overall accuracy and efficiency of the project.


Since there is a high level of human input, there is more exposure to accidents. People have to be on site and be actively involved in every aspect of the processes, as a result cases of accidents are likely. 

According to magnolia reporters, 1284 hospitalizations were recorded for accidents from all terrain vehicles(ATVs) between the year 2005 to 2009. While these accidents are the most common, there are also a lot of trip and falls reported as men and women try to navigate often uneven and awkward terrain. As a result, the industry recognizes that accidents are going up, not down, over the past decade. 


Time is money, and reclamation takes a lot of it. From mobilizing the vehicles to the site to loading and unloading, to maintenance and refilling of fuel, executing these operations over a large expanse of land takes a ton of prep, execution and teardown time. 

Extra Cost

It’s not just the time it takes to run these machines - it’s the cost of the machines and their drivers that drives budgets up significantly. Increased labor for high-paid operators, overtime, machine maintenance and possible machine failure all add up significantly in land reclamation.

Hard to Reach and Delicate Zones

Most of the traditional machines required for land reclamation are large, bulky and occupy defined areas of space with no wiggle room. As a result it can be difficult to access some areas on site, forcing people to cover the slack (which can lead to strenuous activities ripe with danger). 

Moreover, a lot of delicate subsurface areas can get damaged by heavy machines or even human footprints - making it so that traditional methods fall short regardless of the care and attention to detail offered by operators. 


Drone Solutions: The Way Forward

So what can drones do that traditional methods cannot? Everything!

Drones offer the size, speed, agility, light-weight and cost appropriate operation needed to improve several areas of land reclamation.  

For each project, the drones are equipped with sensors for subsurface analysis as well as water and soil-quality monitoring eliminating human error in these areas. For revegetation and seeding, drones are capable of flying large loads across vast areas with increased efficiency and effectiveness -and their size and flying abilities makes every type of area easy to access without disturbance. 

Here’s a brief summary of the advantages of drone use for land reclamation:

  • Accurate data gathering leads to quality 3D models and proper interpretations
  • Less human contact reduces human error and potential injuries from accidents
  • Faster execution of the project means more yearly projects and less overtime costs
  • Minimized overall labour costs and equipment failure
  • Non destructive, quiet and user friendly operation
  • High level of accessibility, very few barriers of entry only land areas. 

Of course, there are a few concerns locally over what exactly should and should not be dropped from the sky (where wind and drift could lead to unwanted results) but these concerns have mostly been addressed and reduced, making drones an excellent fit for a growing number of nations around the world. 

Drones are the way of the future of land reclamation, and Homeland is the most trusted and successful RPAAS in the industry. Contact our experts to keep your company ahead of the pack.


About Author

Chad Hason

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Homeland Environmental Solutions is also spearheading a nationwide working group to gather the required information to responsibly bring pesticide application via RPAAS technology to Canada.

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