Can drones boost rain? UAE looking for answers
The United Arab Emirates is a country with a desert climate. The average annual rainfall it gets is around 4.5 inches. For this, UAE has undertaken a project to boost the rainfall artificially. The project under the National Centre of Meteorology (NCM) is called the UAE Rain Enhancement and Research Program (RERP). It has currently launched its fourth cycle of testing at the recently concluded fifth International Rain Enhancement Forum. They will use some drones for cloud-seeding and the initial test are being conducted at the SANAD Academy in Dubai. The program is being conducted in collaboration with scientists from the University of Reading, UK. It is being led by Professor Giles Harrison.
Can drones boost rain?
The idea is to send drones up into the clouds and produce a small electrical charge. This will perturb the balance of charge between rain droplets. In turn, the rain droplets will merge and fall to the ground as rain. Professor Harrison added, “Our project will evaluate the process of electrical charge affecting the cloud droplet size distribution. It also aims to study the modification in the behavior of the droplets and particles to produce rainfall. We will also study the microphysical and electric properties of fog events.”
The SANAD Academy at Dubai is known for its expertise with drones. With the collaboration with the team of UK scientists, they will test if drones setting off electrical arcs can encourage the skies to open up. Talking about it, Dr. Keri Nicoll from the University of Reading said, “Theory and modeling work has shown the effectiveness of the method of charge imbalance. It has been seen that it increases the likelihood of the droplets merging. And ultimately help them become raindrops.”
Where is UAE standing with this project?
This novel method of cloud-seeding is different from the traditional one. In the International Rain Enhancement Forum, a call for submissions open to innovative project proposals from across the globe was made. This collaboration is the result of that. Dr. Abdulla Al Mandous, director of NCM said, “Such efforts are crucial in driving and encouraging innovation in applied scientific research to advance global rain enhancement capacity.”
In 2019, UAE experimented with more than 185 different cloud seeding projects. Electrical arcs technology proved to be more environmentally friendly than the other techniques using chemicals. According to Alya al-Mazroui, Director of UAE RERP, the study is at an early stage to comment about its practical effectiveness. He also mentioned that it is amongst the nine rain enhancement projects which were given a fund of $15 million for R&D. All eyes are now on the test experiments.