Making rain with drones in Dubai

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With a desert climate and an average annual rainfall of just 100 millimetres, the UAE is funding a number of research projects to bring rain from the sky. A team of researchers at the University of Reading in England will begin testing drones that would fly into the clouds and generate rainfall from the clouds using electrical pulses, near Dubai, CNN reported.

The research team, modelling cloud behaviour, found that if water droplets have different electrical charges, they are more likely to merge and grow into large raindrops than if they have the same charge. The size of raindrops is important because in places like the UAE, where cloud cover is high above the surface and temperatures are high, raindrops evaporate before they reach the ground.

The British researchers built four two-metre wingspan, catapult-launched, 40-minute flight time, autopilot-controlled drones for testing. Sensors in the machines detect temperature, humidity and the electrical charge of their environment, and are also equipped with a device that emits the appropriate electrical pulses. The latter device is a joint development with engineers at the University of Bath. A paper reporting the scientific results of the project was published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology in the first half of May.

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