Recapping DroneDeploy Conference Closing Keynote: Day One

October 14, 2020

Rebuild Paradise Foundation joined us to close out Day One with a riveting keynote. Rebuild Paradise worked hard to reclaim their small town following wildfire damage. Executive Director of Rebuild Paradise, Charles Brooks, led the inspiring closing keynote and touched on how the foundation has helped residents. “Shortly after we committed to rebuilding, we realized that we had to do something to help our community,” said Brooks. Rebuild delivered incremental and pre-development cost savings through the Design Professional community to households and larger projects rebuilding after the wildfire, and even managed to create long-term disaster recovery plans with the help of DroneDeploy.

Executive Director of Rebuild Paradise, Charles Brooks

Brooks, a resident of Paradise, California, had a personal connection to the town and immediately embraced drone technology to determine how and what went wrong. “The fire displaced over 40,000 residents, which was almost 20% of our community,” said Brooks. “It was important that, in the future, we were all prepared and understood how quickly this moved.”

Still, the rebuild faced many challenges: building costs were 40-50% higher due to disaster economics, modern codes, skilled trade and professional service deficits, and labor shortages. There was also a lack of build-ready sites, challenges with insurance availability, and, of course, the emotional and socioeconomic impacts of the disaster itself.

Rebuild Paradise met an abundance of challenges

Utilizing drone technology, however, resulted in incremental cost savings. Design professionals needed detailed site information, and DroneDeploy delivered. Our platform brought up-to-date site imagery to Rebuild and provided contours, measurement tools, and 3D models of the affected areas. Most importantly, though, it kept designers in the office, once again proving drones are the perfect socially distant worker. “If we can allow a commercial project [...] and all of the stakeholders to have access to the information, they’re going to be able to make better decisions about how the project rolls out,” said Brooks.

Photo courtesy of Rebuild Paradise

Rebuild had a desperate need to look at a site from every angle, and drone technology was the first solution to allow for that. “It provided a level of detail we didn’t have before,” Brooks added. In fact, rebuild plans to ramp up to 200-300 residential property flights per year, as they estimate a per site savings of $250-$750.

But Rebuild was far from done: the foundation saw an opportunity to partner with those they felt could benefit from drone technology. Rebuild partnered with Butte County Fire Safe Council to identify areas for treatments, perform tree counts, and study before and after site documentation. They also partnered with Paradise Recreation and Parks District to showcase a new perspective on public parks and evaluate wildfire safety zones.


While work still needs to be done, and the community is still feeling the effects of the devastating loss, Paradise refuses to quit. Rebuild has reported progress that instills hope for the community. “The exciting part is,” said Brooks, “we are strong, we are resilient, and the community is coming back.” Since March 2018, there have been 1,400 building permit applications and 1,200 permits issued; there have been 365 certificates of occupancy and an estimated population of 4,000 and growing. Perhaps most heartening, the city has cleared 97% of water mains, and 100% of the water system has been restored to standing homes.


While debris removal is complete, tree removal is still underway, but Paradise’s signs of progress have instilled a level of hope not seen in the town for months. The road to recovery hasn’t been easy, but Rebuild Paradise has made the journey a little easier. We’re proud to partner with a foundation that does so much good for their communities. To all the efforts put forth by Rebuild Paradise, we promise to be with you every step of the way.

“Paradise was a town built on dreams of the past; now, it will be built on dreams of the future.” – A Paradise resident.

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