UAS Autonomously Conducts Cloud Seeding in Nevada Desert


As the first phase in a new industry-academic research partnership, a team comprising the Desert Research Institute (DRI), the environmental research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education; Drone America; and AviSight has performed a test flight of a DAx8 multi-rotor drone with an attached cloud seeding cargo.

According to DRI, its cloud seeding program “augment[s] snowfall in mountainous regions that supply water to northern and southern Nevada and increase[s] the snowpack and resultant runoff from the targeted basins.” For this test, the UAS autonomously performed “silver iodide cloud seeding flare activation.”

Adam Watts, Ph.D, an assistant research professor at DRI and the project’s lead, says the flight – conducted in a remote desert location outside Reno, Nev. – validates the potential for UAS to significantly enhance airborne seeding operations.

“This is a major milestone,” he explains. “Utilizing our state’s [Federal Aviation Administration] test site designation, we were able to fly this advanced aircraft right here in northern Nevada and verify that UAS are fully capable of carrying active cloud seeding payloads.”

Drone America’s DAx8, an eight-rotor UAS, can carry large payloads and has software and GPS guidance that provide self-stabilizing capability and multi-waypoint navigation.

The next phase of the project will be to conduct flight planning and test airborne flare deployment with Drone America’s Savant fixed-wing aircraft, adds Watts. The project is supported through Nevada’s Knowledge Fund.

“We are extremely excited to have completed yet another step in reaching our goal of autonomous cloud seeding application,” says Mike Richards, president and CEO of Drone America. “Our joint research program with DRI is well on its way to revolutionizing the cloud seeding industry by providing safe airborne seeding with significant potential of providing relief to people in drought-stricken areas.”


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