Drones are being tested for weather engineering

(From Left) Drone America's Todd Richman, pilot, and Kyle Pruett, engineer and pilot, prepare to test fly the Savant sUAS with cloud seeding flares at the Hawthorne Industrial Airport in Hawthorne, Nev. on Friday, April 29, 2016. The Savant flew to 400 feet and was successful in igniting two silver-iodide cloud seeding flares. Photo by Kevin Clifford/Drone America

People have been trying to control weather for a long time now. It is a difficult task on a large-scale but locally humans have already learnt how to influence some of the meteorological processes.

Silver iodide is a material commonly used to induce extra rainfall from clouds. It has a hexagonal crystalline structure that is very similar to ice. Similar enough to trigger a process of freezing nucleation where smaller particles gathers to form a block of ice, resulting in a rainfall.

Microscopic particles of silver iodide are shot into existing clouds to control where the rainfall happens. You can use it to clear the air before important events (like Olympic games in Beijing in 2008) or even to reduce a risk of some precipitation related natural disasters.

Now this technology is being tested with the use of drones. A new UAV has been built by the Desert Research Institute in cooperation with Drone America. Earlier this week the drone called the “Sandoval Silver State Seeder” has been tested in Nevada. It flew to an altitude of 400 ft (122 m) in an 18-minute flight, deploying two silver-iodide flares. Although it didn’t make any rain, DRI calls it a “major milestone.”

“We have reached another major milestone in our effort to reduce both the risks and the costs in the cloud seeding industry and help mitigate natural disasters caused by drought, hail and extreme fog,” says Mike Richards, President and CEO of Drone America. “With a wingspan of 11-feet, 10-inches (3.6 m) and its light weight design (less than 55 pounds (25 kg)) the Savant is the perfect vehicle to conduct this type of operation due to its superior flight profile, long flight times and its resistance to wind and adverse weather conditions.”

Weather engineering is still a new field of science. Using drones will undoubtedly make it cheaper, better and more accessible. Although modifications of a climate have as many supporters as people against it, the truth is that using it to flight droughts and other natural disasters is very tempting.

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