Inducing the natural phenomenon of rain through artificial methods is not a new concept but has been pursued by many nations. China has been actively using cloud seeding to ease its water shortages and pollution problems. However, Dubai opted for a new approach to rain through cloud-seeding drones. 

“With temperatures at 50 degrees Celsius, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is creating its own rain using drones that fly into clouds and unleash electrical charges”, Vanguard reported. This is an innovative technology and can prove a cost-effective one.

What is Cloud Seeding?

Cloud seeding is an artificial method of weather modification that aims to change the amount of precipitation that falls from clouds. This is done by dispersing artificial agents that serve as cloud condensation or ice nuclei that change the molecular processes within the cloud. The main goal of cloud seeding is to increase precipitation (rain or snow), which will lead to a downpour. 

The most common method of cloud seeding is using various types of salts. Chemicals such as silver iodide, potassium iodide, or dry ice are dispersed into the clouds through airplanes. These chemical agents act as ice nuclei for the supercooled particles in the cloud to grow. Once the particles become heavy, they fall as precipitation. 

what is cloud seeding
The process of cloud seeding using chemical agents. | Source: Wikipedia

The technique used by meteorologists from Dubai uses a unique method compared to chemical-based cloud seeding. Electric charges were used instead of chemical agents to alter the size of water droplets in the clouds.

How Does Drone Cloud Seeding Work?

The drone cloud seeding operation is part of a $15 million mission to generate rain in the UAE. The country’s arid environment receives just 3 inches of rainfall every year. The cloud seeding drones are equipped with specialized electric charge emitting instruments and sensors. 

The drones are then flown towards the clouds and the electric charge is dispersed. This has proven to change the droplet size within the clouds. A research paper written by Prof. Giles Harrison, a professor of Atmospheric Physics at the Department of Meteorology of the University of Reading, states that external electrical charges do influence the growth rate of droplets. 

“Droplets even in non-thunderstorm clouds naturally carry electric charge. Recent work has shown that charges can modify the droplet growth rates. This can increase the rate at which rain droplets are formed” This project resulted in successful downpours in the city of Dubai.

Drones – A Cost-Effective Meteorology Tool

Cloud seeding has been successfully used multiple times in the past. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China utilized cloud seeding to create showers everywhere but at the Olympic stadium. However, drones are a more effective way of cloud seeding than missiles and aircraft. 

Apart from cloud seeding, drones have enormous utility in weather prediction. They may even replace the age-old weather balloons. A storm drone developed by Oklahoma University can fly close to hurricanes and storms and relay critical weather data to the ground control station in real-time. The primary benefit of drones is not just cost-effectiveness but also quick deployment time. In dry countries like UAE, drones could prove to be a solution to the high temperatures and water shortages.