Navigating Drone Laws: How the Power of Pro Bono is Supporting Global Reforestation

by Livia Fry, Programs Officer, NAC, TrustLaw
Friday, 19 April 2024 16:36 GMT


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This impact story is part of a series to celebrate the extraordinary pro bono projects undertaken by legal teams to support NGOs and social enterprises with the support of TrustLaw. All projects mentioned in this series are nominated for this year’s TrustLaw Awards. Find out more. 

Trees are essential to all life on Earth. They clean our air and water, guard against new infectious diseases, provide homes for many of the animals and insects with whom we share the planet, and underpin global economies – creating more than 86 million jobs around the world. Without them, we cannot exist.  

As essential as trees are to our continued existence, theirs is far from guaranteed. Half of all forest loss in history occurred in the last century alone – in large part due to the demand for agriculture and infrastructure development to support the world’s growing population. And with that demand showing no signs of abating, repopulating the world’s forests is going to require everyone pitching in to help.  

Encouraging reforestation around the globe 

One Tree Planted is making that possible. Their mission is to make it simple for everyone to help the environment by planting trees. By working with local partners in more than 80 countries, One Tree Planted has supported the planting of more than 130 million trees since it was founded in 2014. Their platform enables anybody to donate trees, which are then nurtured and planted by members of their team wherever they are needed most. The trees they plant restore watersheds that provide drinking water for millions of people, reinvigorate biodiversity, provide essential job opportunities, and much more.  

Planting new trees is critical, but in One Tree Planted’s words – “Planting trees isn’t a one-and-done process.” One Tree Planted uses a robust monitoring process to ensure resources are being allocated appropriately, planting projects are having the desired impact, and donors are receiving complete and transparent reports on the use and the impact of their donations.  

Drones can help monitor where trees are planted – but laws and regulations vary 

With many of their projects in hard-to-reach locations, One Tree Planted relies heavily on drones to monitor their planting projects. However the rules around their registration and use differ greatly from one country to another, and the possibility of unintentionally violating a law or regulation governing drones without access to expert legal advice is real. And doing so could jeopardise One Tree Planted’s work. 

To help mitigate this, One Tree Planted worked with 6 leading law firms on research into laws and regulations governing drone use across 11 locations throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.[1] The firms worked together to produce comparative research on rules, restrictions, and limitations regarding registering and operating drones in the locations identified by One Tree Planted, providing the organisation with the information it needed to continue its critical work without legal hindrances.   

With a clear understanding of local laws, One Tree Planted can continue their vital work 

Thanks to this research, One Tree Planted can focus on furthering its mission to help protect and heal the environment by planting trees, safe in the knowledge that they comply with local laws.   

In the words of One Tree Planted, “Trustlaw and its Pro Bono partners provided One Tree Planted with a global regulatory guide on drone use. This invaluable resource enables us to effectively utilise drones for capturing imagery, enhancing our reforestation projects by improving tree survival rates, project impacts, and monitoring capabilities. 



[1] Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, Altacit Global, Kimathi & Partners, Cescon Barrieu Advogados, Basham Ringe & Correa S.C., & Meru & Ngaji Advocates 

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