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One Tree Planted Receives RBC Tech for Nature Grant for Drones

by Meaghan Weeden May 06, 2021 4 min read

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Leveraging Drone Technology to Innovate and Accelerate Reforestation

We're excited to announce that we've received a grant from RBC Foundation USA to expand our reforestation and monitoring programs by developing a drone training program with a focus on forest restoration. We've long been interested in deploying drone technology to further our reforestation efforts, and have been researching ways to scale our global impact by making it accessible to our global planting network. 

This grant will allow us to develop a comprehensive training program to be shared across our network of hundreds of reforestation partners across the globe — and once implemented, will dramatically reduce monitoring costs for our partners, allowing them to maximize their impact. 

From RBC:"At RBC, we believe in the power of innovative technologies to address and scale solutions to some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time,” said Valerie Chort, Vice-President, Corporate Citizenship & Sustainability, RBC. “We’re proud to be working alongside One Tree Planted to develop real-world, scalable solutions to tackle the challenges that continue to plague our environment.”

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Who is RBC Foundation USA and how does their program work?

RBC Foundation USA is a registered 501(c)(3) charity of RBC’s U.S. Wealth Management and U.S. Capital Markets businesses that provides donations to community nonprofits in support  of Youth, Arts & Culture, and the Environment. Realizing that the most pressing environmental concerns of our time are negatively impacting the planet at a rate that often outpaces the solutions designed to address them, RBC Foundation USA helps other charitable organizations employ innovative technologies to solve environmental challenges. The RBC Tech for Nature Program was created in recognition of the immense potential for technology to help us address the issues we face, and the need to get that technology into the hands of those working on the frontlines of the climate crisis. 

In their own words, "RBC’s Tech for Nature Program specifically supports technology-driven programs focused on: 

  • Data:Transforming the collection, accuracy and availability of environmental data; building tools to democratize info; enhancing predictive capabilities; to help people, communities and scientists make informed decisions.
  • Innovation Ecosystem:Fostering an innovation ecosystem of environmental entrepreneurs, ventures, and charities that are developing technology solutions to address environmental challenges.
  • Communities of Action:We believe that through technology we can empower individuals to work with their communities and positively change their behavior to produce a notable change for our planet.
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How Drones Help Reforestation

Drones and reforestation may seem incongruous, but they're actually kind of a match made in heaven. Why? Drones can collect high resolution spatial data in remote areas, which enables accurate, data driven analyses that reduces the need for more time consuming, manual monitoring of planting sites. Because drones can fly at a low altitude, they can also capture extremely high spatial resolution imagery, which allows for accurate monitoring of forest loss, degradation, regrowth process, and other important on-ground metrics. These can be used to assess forest health conditions, carbon storage, and even biodiversity levels.

Drone technology also enables the generation of three dimensional forestry modeling that has the potential to track forest structure parameters like height, basal area, and tree density. This makes it easier to estimate above-ground biomass, which helps to improve carbon storage assessments. 

The enhanced monitoring capabilities of drones also allow for regular, frequent time-series photography and real-time videography which can track time sensitive disturbances like fire and illegal land-use changes that alter forest cover. This allows for efficient and quick response time to prevent further deforestation, and direct immediate restoration needs.

How Our Drone Program Will Work

The first year of this program will act as a pilot and will entail close collaboration between one of our awesome planting partners in California and forestry experts on our team. Together, we'll design training materials, develop processes to analyze data, create an implementation plan, enable our partners to produce high-level maps & frequent time-series photography, and explore the capabilities of 3D imagery. After this foundation has been established, we will be able to scale the program and launch it globally to our network of hundreds of partners around the world.

Local empowerment of planting organizations to monitor with drones will improve the quality and quantity of spatial data collected and leave a lasting impact on restoration efforts It will help to address the global problem of deforestation through the collection of various datasets, metrics, photography, videography, which will be openly accessible to our network of partners. Providing this data empowers the reforestation movement, allowing foresters around the world to analyze and learn from other tree plantings, so they can best adapt their practices and scale their plantings in more efficient and successful ways.

We're so excited to work together with RBC Foundation USA and our partners to turn this vision into a reality! 

Want to help? Consider planting a tree with us today!

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Meaghan Weeden
Meaghan Weeden

Meaghan works to share our story far and wide, manages our blog calendar, coordinates with the team on projects + campaigns, and ensures our brand voice is reflected across channels. With a background in communications and an education in environmental conservation, she is passionate about leveraging her creativity to help the environment!