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Drones and rockets could be used for cloud-seeding, say experts

ABU DHABI // Drones and rockets could be used as part of a much-needed technological overhaul of how countries utilise cloud seeding, experts said on Tuesday.

New technology and more effective cloud-seeding materials should be used to tackle water scarcity, said Dr Richard Behnke, a fellow of the American meteorological society and former head of geospace research at the US national science foundation.

At present, the sole method of cloud seeding uses aircraft to release pure salt crystal, silver iodide, potassium iodide or dry ice into the atmosphere, which fosters cloud precipitation.

As such, developing innovative rain enhancement solutions with the help of technological progress was imperative, Dr Behnke said.

“Technology has grown and there are many different ways of doing cloud seeding besides airplanes,” he said.

“People are thinking of using drones to take measurements of the weather and know when exactly is the best time for cloud seeding, and also ideas to use rockets instead.”

Dr Behnke, chair of the international reviewers committee of the UAE Research Programme for Rain Enhancement Science, said the research proposals showed how beneficial new technology could be.

In 2015, the Ministry of Presidential Affairs launched the programme to address the country’s water scarcity. The scheme is managed by the UAE National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology.

The programme invites researchers and institutions across the globe to file research proposals. Its review committee selects the top five proposals, which will be given a US$5 million (Dh18.4m) grant over a three-year period. The chosen researchers will work with the centre to develop their plan.

“We have seen proposals about new cloud-seeding materials, which are better than the existing ones, including some innovative technology and nano-technology,” Dr Behnke said.

“Typically we are building on existing science. But with these research proposals, we aim to push the envelope of science to areas it has not been before.

“This is the way we need to approach cloud seeding and rain enhancement and work together globally to tackle the issue of water security.”

This year, the programme received 201 proposals from 710 researchers in 68 countries – a 100 per cent increase from last year, said Alya Al Mazroui, the programme’s manager.

“The UAE does not want to find a solution just for us, but for the whole region,” she said.

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The National