Scientists in the United Arab Emirates have developed drone technology that releases an electric charge inside of clouds to create rain. The technology is used to combat drought and severely hot climate.
The UAE is implementing this technology across cities that regularly reach above 40 degrees Celsius. The drones have been a success in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, as well as Dubai.
The UAE is famous for its extremely hot and arid weather, only seeing 100mm of rainfall annually compared to the United Kingdom’s 1300mm.
Rain created by drones could be used worldwide
The UAE’s National Center for Meteorology has already executed 126 flights with the technology since the start of 2021. Researchers across the world have been studying the innovative new practice of weather manipulation, dubbed “cloud seeding,” for its potential in other parts of the world racked with similar heat problems as the UAE.
Professor Giles Harrison from the University of Reading, who researches cloud seeding, said it is “intended to bring blue-sky thinking to cloud and rain.”
“Our project is about changing the balance of charges on the tiniest cloud droplets, a neglected aspect of clouds which could revolutionise our ability to manipulate rainfall in areas that need it most” he added.
Research is also underway to determine whether cloud seeding is a viable option for climate change in the United States. The U.S. version would require a slightly different method than the one currently in use in the UAE. The drones would need to produce droplets of silver iodine rather than electric charges in order to induce rainfall.
Although cloud seeding is certainly a highly innovative and effective technology, it does not eradicate the deeper source of the type of weather it combats and may not be a permanent response either.
University of Colorado researcher Katja Friedrich raised this issue: “It needs to be part of a broader water plan that involves conserving water efficiently, we can’t just focus on one thing. Also, there is a question whether you will be able to do it in a changing climate—you need cold temperatures and once it gets too warm you aren’t able to do the cloud seeding.”
Despite these concerns, cloud seeding still represents a veritable form of water production for countries that desperately need it. Until a solution for the deep roots of climate change can be invented, it will have to suffice.
“Water scarcity is one of the biggest problems facing humanity, and climate change is providing more uncertainty around rainfall,” said Dr Keri Nicoll, who is currently testing the technology in Bath, England.
She said that anything that can help parts of the world that are “really struggling for water” is a welcome advance.