Nevada is tackling drought in a futuristic way through cloud-seeding drones. Near the end of April, teams piloted the first ever drone to release a “cloud-seeding payload“: silver-iodide that could generate more rain from clouds. The state believes the drones may be part of the solution to alleviate their drought issue.
Desert Research Institute, Drone America, and AviSight were all part of the effort, which gained some funding from the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. At an airport near Reno, the cloud-seeding drone, Drone America Savant, flew for 18 minutes and attained an altitude of 400 feetin the sky. The crews named the drone the “Sandoval Silver State Seeder” after Governor Brian Sandoval, whom they say has supported the unmanned flight industry in Nevada.
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The teams used silver-iodide flares in their drone, which could create ice to encourage clouds to generate more raindrops. This boosts a cloud’s efficiency, which is vital during a drought. The technology, which has been around since the 1940s, can’t actually make clouds on its own, andwouldn’t completely end a drought. But it could build up water supplies in reservoirs and even alleviate other weather patterns such as hail.
The Desert Research Institute has spent years researching weather modification. Drone America manufactures drones and AviSight provides data on drones. Combined, the three plan to continue to tackle Nevada’s drought. Chief Engineer Amber Broch said drones have the capacity to greatly benefit environmental science in the future. The teams aim to conduct more unmanned flights as well as manned flights, and test the technology through ground generators as well.
AviSight co-founder James Fleitz said, “This is an important step for Nevada and the unmanned aerial industry. This collaborative effort highlights the diverse applications of unmanned systems and showcased the ability of this technology to support scientific advancements.”