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September-October 2016

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Weather Front

Cloud-Seeding Drone Tested in Nevada

One day soon, cloud seeding may become an automated affair. In April 2016, an aircraft with a wingspan just under 12 feet and a pilot planted firmly on the ground flew over Hawthorne Industrial Airport in Nevada and deployed two silver-iodide flares as a test of the potential for unmanned aerial cloud-seeding operations. The aircraft reached an altitude of 400 feet and flew for approximately 18 minutes. The drone didn't fly solo, however. A manned companion aircraft flew nearby to record infrared and high-definition video that will be used to refine the system before they test a UAS beyond visual line-of-sight.

Members of the project, a collaboration between the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and commercial entities Drone America and AviSight, hope their drones could one day reduce risks and costs associated with cloud-seeding operations.  

KIMBRA CUTLIP is a freelance writer and former assistant editor for Weatherwise.          

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