MADRID, 6 (EUROPA PRESS)
In the desert United Arab Emirates, a new method of causing rain in places where water is scarce will be tested, using drones designed and manufactured in humid England.
Drones carry an electrical charge that is released into a cloud, giving cloud droplets the jolt they need to clump together and fall like rain.
This is one of the first times that scientists have used drones in an attempt to stimulate rain from clouds. Established techniques to stimulate rainfall in dry countries involve low-flying planes or rockets spewing or firing solid particles (such as salt or silver iodide) into the clouds. This is known as cloud seeding.
The drones, which are being tested as part of the Emirates’ rain enhancement scientific research program, are equipped with a payload of instruments and electric charge emission sensors. Human operators on the ground will direct them into the low clouds, where they will release their cargo. Clouds naturally carry positive and negative charges. By upsetting the balance of these charges, it is hoped that cloud droplets can be persuaded to grow and merge, eventually producing rain.
The research, which is published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, is being led by the University of Reading, however, both the drones and some of the equipment they carry were developed by researchers from Bath’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. . The first drone flights in the Emirates are expected to take place in the coming months.
Dr Keri Nicoll, who coordinated the research at the University of Bath and is now a visiting scientist in Bath, based at the University of Reading, said in a statement: “We have conducted tests in the UK and have shown that we can release charge from drones and detect it on the ground. The next step is to repeat these tests in the United Arab Emirates, where the ambient electrical environment is very different from that in the United Kingdom, due to high levels of dust and aerosol particles. “
Water stress is a major problem in much of the Arab world, including the Emirates. Average rainfall in the Emirates is 100mm per year (compared to 885mm in the UK) and the country is expected to become drier and more arid as temperatures rise due to global warming.
“Water scarcity is one of the biggest problems humanity faces, and climate change is creating more uncertainty around rainfall,” said Nicoll, adding: “In those parts of the world that really struggle for water, projects to improve rainfall are really important, and there are 50 countries that have established rainfall improvement programs. They already do cloud seeding in the UAE (using salt particles, released by manned aircraft), but they are eager for finding other ways to bring water to the population. “
Nicoll is hopeful that the technology produced for the project can be used to stimulate clouds to produce rain for years to come. “Cloud droplet loading alone may not replace established cloud seeding techniques, but it could work in conjunction with existing techniques to maximize the efficiency of cloud seeding,” he said.