The use of drones to address sustainability challenges and crises isn’t unusual these days. But Brooklyn-based Greenpoint Innovations is taking a more multifaceted approach to harnessing drones in tropical rainforests for social as well as environmental good.
As Stephen Donofrio, principal and founder of the company explains, “drones enhance our ability to work in tropical countries to conserve rainforests and preserve and protect the human rights of indigenous people who live in those environments.”
The company launched SustainaDrone Solutions (SDS) at the World Economic Forum’s Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 summit in Brazil in March. SDS is designed to support companies, governments and NGOs working in countries with tropical rainforests to address sustainability issues. How? With landscape mapping for improved land management and real-time monitoring of illegal activities in rainforests. The startup also handles video production to enhance stakeholder communications, says Donofrio.
Greenpoint Innovations was formed three years ago to “integrate innovative technologies, the arts and in-depth subject matter expertise to create solutions that contribute to a sustainable, resilient and prosperous future,” Donofrio said.
In 2015, Donofrio and Martin Hoffman, a specialized film and TV drone-photographer and videographer, developed SDS to solve environmental and social problems.
Donofrio notes that “leveraging new technologies for sustainability purposes affords an exciting opportunity to increase the ‘cool factor’ of rainforest sustainability, and attract millennial and mainstream audiences.”
One of the main objectives of the company is “raising the visibility of rainforest sustainability using different media and art forms, such as creative video storytelling and street art,” Donofrio said.
Hoffman explains that the advantages of drones in tropical rainforests are significant. “Handheld cameras can’t match the unique ability of drones to provide the aerial perspective of hundreds, if not thousands of hectares,” he said. “They provide sophisticated, decision-useful data and can reach places more quickly and easily than farmers can by foot.”
Although the company is currently focused on drone projects in tropical rainforests, it is set up to tackle other challenges. Donofrio says the company is exploring opportunities to use drones for urban forestry applications.
Greenpoint Innovations is also testing the use of virtual reality to more fully immerse audiences in rainforest experiences, allowing the viewer to make an emotional connection with rainforest issues.