Nav: Home

Unmanned cloud-seeding aircraft takes flight in Nevada

May 03, 2016

RENO - For the first time in aviation history, a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft has successfully tested a cloud-seeding payload during an experimental flight in Nevada.

Flown at Hawthorne Industrial Airport under the state's FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site designation, the Drone America Savant™ aircraft reached an altitude of 400 feet and flew for approximately 18 minutes on Friday, April 29, 2016.

The Savant™ aircraft -- named the "Sandoval Silver State Seeder" in honor of Governor Brian Sandoval's dedication to the success of the state's UAS industry -- deployed two silver-iodide flares, successfully testing and demonstrating its ability to perform unmanned aerial cloud seeding operations.

"This is a tremendous accomplishment for the state of Nevada and everyone involved," said the project's lead scientist, Adam Watts, Ph.D., an assistant research professor at DRI and an expert in UAS applications for ecological and natural-resources applications.

Led by the Desert Research Institute (DRI), and supported by the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development through the Knowledge Fund, this first-of-its-kind project is helping Nevada address the ongoing impacts of drought and explore innovative solutions for natural-resource challenges such as augmenting regional water supplies. The research team combines more than 30 years of weather modification research and expertise at DRI with the proven experience in aerospace manufacturing and flight operations of Reno-based Drone America, and the industry leading unmanned aerial data services of Las Vegas-based AviSight.

"We have reached another major milestone in our effort to reduce both the risks and the costs in the cloud seeding industry and help mitigate natural disasters caused by drought, hail and extreme fog," said Mike Richards, President and CEO of Drone America. "With a wingspan of 11-feet, 10-inches and its light weight design (less than 55 pounds) the Savant™ is the perfect vehicle to conduct this type of operation due to its superior flight profile, long flight times and its resistance to wind and adverse weather conditions."

Drone America performed the test flight under an FAA agreement in partnership with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS). This flight was the first use by DRI of the Nevada Test Site's Certificate of Authorization (COA), which grants authority to operate the Savant™ at altitudes up to 1,200 feet.

"The Nevada-based research and flight teams that produced these trend-setting results are clearly leading the industry with this innovative technology. Conducting this unmanned cloud seeding test flight is a first flying in the National Airspace System and in Nevada," said Dr. Chris Walach, Director for the FAA-designated Nevada Unmanned Aviation Test Site.

AviSight performed aerial support for the test flight with their manned aircraft, recording both infrared and HD video of the flight to support future system refinements and plans to conduct UAS flights beyond visual line-of-sight.

"This is an important step for Nevada and the unmanned aerial industry," said James Fleitz, co-founder of AviSight. "This collaborative effort highlights the diverse applications of unmanned systems and showcased the ability of this technology to support scientific advancements."

Together with Drone America and AviSight, DRI researchers plan to create weather forecasts and conduct flight planning for manned and unmanned aircraft; conduct tests of cloud seeding operations using manned and unmanned systems as well as existing ground generators; and estimate the effectiveness of UAS cloud seeding applications across DRI's current Lake Tahoe Basin operations area.

"Not only does this demonstrate the capabilities of the Savant™," said Amber Broch, chief engineer for the project and an assistant research engineer at DRI, "but it also shows the tremendous potential to use unmanned systems as tools for environmental science and innovative natural resource applications."
-end-
Additional photos available upon request.

Video of the Savant ™ test flight can be viewed at -- https://youtu.be/26tSm-eDva4

About the Desert Research Institute: DRI, the nonprofit research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education, strives to be the world leader in environmental sciences through the application of knowledge and technologies to improve people's lives throughout Nevada and the world. For more information about DRI's cloud seeding program please visit http://www.dri.edu

About Drone America: Drone America strives to be one of the World's Top Providers of Autonomous Unmanned Vehicles, and high tech equipment and services. Our mission is to use UAS technologies as means to survey, protect, and preserve human life and strategic resources around the Globe. For more information about Drone America please visit http://droneamerica.com/

About Avisight: AviSight is an aerospace and remote sensing services company based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our company employs Aerospace systems, Remote Sensing technology, Analytics, and Data Collection/Distribution systems for commercial and government clients. For more information about AviSight please visit -- http://avisight.com/

About the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS): On behalf of the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development, NIAS helps to grow the Autonomous Systems Industry through business teaming, partnerships, research and development, and education awareness in order to bring in business and jobs to the State of Nevada and to facilitate full and safe UAS integration into the National Airspace System. Learn more at http://www.nias-uas.com.

Media Contacts:

Justin Broglio
Communications Officer
Desert Research Institute
Ph: 775-673-7610
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."Justin.Broglio@dri.edu
@DRIScience

Kevin Clifford
Marketing & Communications Manager
Drone America
Ph: 775-473-9998
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it."kevin@droneamerica.com
@Drone_America

Chris Walach
Director of Operations--Unmanned Aviation with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site on behalf of the Governor's Office of Economic Development
Ph: 702-793-4219
chris.walach@nias-uas.com

Desert Research Institute

Related Aircraft Articles:

Monitoring pollen using an aircraft
Plant pollen and fungal spores can be found at variable heights in the air, even at elevations up to 2,000 meters.
Designing the fuel-efficient aircraft of the future
University of Michigan researchers are using the Stampede supercomputer to design novel, fuel-efficient, wing designs for jets, and to develop tools that can help the industry build more efficient aircraft.
Aircraft inspectors have new Sandia course to help detect composite material damage
In the midst of holiday travel season, airline customers want to feel safe in the new aircraft made of composite materials.
New material could make aircraft deicers a thing of the past
Instead of applying a deicing agent to strip ice from an aircraft's wings before winter takeoffs, airport personnel could in the future just watch chunks slide right off.
Autonomous cloud seeding aircraft successfully tested in Nevada
A team of Nevada scientists and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) engineers have successfully flight tested the first-ever autonomous cloud seeding aircraft platform.
New electric propulsion system improves safety of light aircraft
Researchers at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the AXTER Aerospace firm have developed an electric propulsion system to install in small gasoline-powered planes for extra power and range in emergency situations.
Lightweight membrane can significantly reduce in-flight aircraft noise
Riding in a helicopter or airplane can be a noisy experience for passengers.
Taking aircraft manufacturing out of the oven
Aerospace engineers at MIT have now developed a carbon nanotube film that can heat and solidify a composite without the need for massive ovens.
Far-reaching technology for aircraft manufacture that pollutes less
Cutting the environmental costs of aero engine parts manufacturing, increasing freedom in their design and reducing fuel consumption and contaminating gas emissions are some of the benefits resulting from applying modern additive manufacturing techniques to the aircraft industry.
Overcoming barriers to successful use of autonomous unmanned aircraft
While civil aviation is on the threshold of potentially revolutionary changes with the emergence of increasingly autonomous unmanned aircraft, these new systems pose serious questions about how they will be safely and efficiently integrated into the existing civil aviation structure, says a new report from the National Research Council.

Related Aircraft Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Moving Forward
When the life you've built slips out of your grasp, you're often told it's best to move on. But is that true? Instead of forgetting the past, TED speakers describe how we can move forward with it. Guests include writers Nora McInerny and Suleika Jaouad, and human rights advocate Lindy Lou Isonhood.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...