SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — There are drones that fight crime, and drones that fight wars. Now, scientists have enlisted drones to plant billions of trees in the fight against climate change.

It’s a kinder, gentler battle of monumental importance to the planet, being waged by Lauren Fletcher, CEO of the startup, BioCarbon Engineering. The former NASA engineer and his team in England have developed drones that can replant trees in an effort to keep up with industrial deforestation.

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“We believe industrial scale deforestation can only be countered with industrial reforestion,” says engineer Susan Graham. “We are using exponential technologies to solve one of the world’s greatest challenges.”

Replanting is critical in the war against climate change. Trees offset the CO2 emissions associated with global warming. Every year 26 billion trees are cut down, an area the size of England — but only 11 billion are replanted.

“How do we reverse the damage we’ve done from literally hundreds of years of …development? I and my team actually have a chance to… change the trend,” says Fletcher. “We are going to plant one billion trees a year.”

The drones work in 3 phases.

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UAV Mapping (photo courtesy BioCarbon)

UAV Mapping (photo courtesy BioCarbon)

First unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, survey the areas in need of reforestation and produce highly detailed 3D maps.

UAV Planting (photo courtesy BioCarbon)

UAV Planting (photo courtesy BioCarbon)

Then, UAVs carry out precision planting using pregerminated seeds covered with a nutritious hydrogel to help them survive and grow. According to Biotech, these specially designed UAVs can shoot seeds at a rate of 10 pellets a minute, roughly 36,000 trees a day.

UAVs conduct planting audits over time.  (photo courtesy BioCarbon)

UAVs conduct planting audits over time. (photo courtesy BioCarbon)

Finally, UAV’s conduct planting audits over time to monitor the health of the trees.

BioCarbon says using multipurpose drones costs 85% less than traditional tree-planting by hand, which is slow and laborious. The company plans to start planting by the end of this year.

Lauren is optimistic. “We will be able to affect global change,” he says. “That’s why our motto has been ‘we are going to change the world one billion trees at a time.'”

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Changing the world… One billion trees at a time from zee on Vimeo.