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UAS Project to Increase Snowpack in Nevada Mountains
A new industry-academic research partnership will bring together Nevada’s top atmospheric scientists and leading unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) engineers, designers, and data experts to develop and test innovative applications focused on increasing snowpack depths in the Lake Tahoe region.
Led by the Desert Research Institute (DRI), and supported by Nevada’s Knowledge Fund, this first-of-its-kind project will combine more than 30 years of DRI weather modification research and expertise 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.
“This project is a key part of helping Nevada address the ongoing drought and explore innovative solutions for natural-resource challenges such as augmenting our regional water supply,” said the project’s lead scientist, Adam Watts, Ph.D, a DRI assistant research professor and expert in UAS applications for ecological and natural-resources applications
The project will develop and test Drone America’s latest UAS technologies for cloud seeding operations across the Lake Tahoe Basin and Truckee River watershed, where DRI has conducted ground-based winter cloud seeding operations for more than 30 years. On average, DRI’s cloud seeding program adds approximately 14,000 acre-feet (4.5 billion gallons) of water to the Truckee River watershed’s snowpack each winter season, explained Frank McDonough, lead forecaster and manager of the DRI Weather Modification Program.
Currently, under local support from the Truckee Meadows Water Authority (TMWA) and the Western Regional Water Commission (WRWC), DRI conducts cloud seeding using ground-based generators along and West of the Sierra Crest, increasing the resilience of municipalities and agricultural operations to drought, added McDonough.
While manned aircraft have been utilized in the past for cloud seeding operations and research in the Lake Tahoe region, DRI has not pursued such methods for cloud seeding in the region in nearly two decades due to the high costs and risks associated with airborne seeding from a manned aircraft.
This new collaboration hopes to change that, explained Watts.
“When used correctly, airborne cloud seeding platforms offer great potential to increase the number of storms that can be seeded, thus helping to increase the local snowpack and resulting river flows,” he said. “Further, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) could be deployed much faster and more often to increase effectiveness and decrease the costs and risks compared to that of manned airborne cloud seeding.”
The team will utilize two of Drone America’s cutting-edge unmanned platforms; the DAx8 multi-rotor aircraft that is designed to carry payloads, sensors and cameras while providing extra safety and redundancy; and the Savant fixed-wing aircraft that is designed to excel in tough commercial unmanned system applications despite its light weight design (less than 55 pounds). Both platforms incorporate a sophisticated autopilot system, providing the aircraft with autonomous capability and safe, reliable navigation over complex terrain such as the areas where cloud seeding is done.
Drone America will also provide experienced flight operations teams, consisting of air vehicle operators, payload operators, and technicians, who are well trained and mission-ready. The team has over 21,000 combined flight hours ranging from small UAS to commercial airliners.
“We have been working with the DRI since 2013 on ways to utilize our UAS platforms to make aerial cloud seeding operations safer and more effective,” said Mike Richards, President and CEO of Drone America. “Now, with the support of Governor Brian Sandoval’s Office of Economic Development and the State’s Knowledge Fund we will be able to make these innovations a reality.”
AviSight, a leading provider of manned and unmanned aerial data services will coordinate and manage the project’s airspace access with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and lead business development efforts to expand test and deployments in Nevada and surrounding Western states.
Together with Drone America and AviSight, DRI researchers plan to create weather forecasts and conduct flight planning for manned and unmanned aircraft; conduct test 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 the DRI’s current Lake Tahoe Basin operations area.
“This project is going to notably advance Nevada’s UAS industry,” said Steve Hill, Executive Director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “When proven effective, this research can be used to promote Nevada-born UAS innovation in other areas where cloud seeding is currently done, including most of the Western States, Canada, and several other countries.”
Additionally, jobs created as a result of this initiative are intended to be high-paying STEM jobs that will bolster the UAS research and development capabilities across Nevada. The project’s Knowledge Fund grant will provide $400,000 to the project over the next two years.
2017-04-25Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
Aerial dogfighting began more than a century ago in the skies over Europe with propeller-driven fighter aircraft carried aloft on wings of fabric and wood. An event held recently in southern California could mark the beginning of a new chapter in this form of aerial combat.
2016-08-0813 Takeaways from The White House Workshop
The White House launched a new effort Tuesday to help increase the use of drones and showcased how government agencies have become a proving ground for a wide array of new drone concepts and technologies.
2016-07-24New Report: Drones in Public Safety and First Responder Operations
It may not seem like it, but drones are still in their infancy and only proving themselves through the rigorous testing done privately, commercially, and by state and federal government agencies. Despite the tangible benefits that drones can provide, the public has mixed sentiments about their use by law enforcement, firefighting, and search & rescue operations.
2016-07-14Drone World Expo – Exclusive Interviews – Mark Bathrick
We wanted to find out more about the team behind Drone World Expo – what makes them tick, what motivates them and what are the secrets behind the success of the event. We interviewed Advisory Board member Mark L. Bathrick who directs a nationwide aviation services business for the U.S Department of the Interior (DOI) overseeing the safe operation of over 1,200 contracted and government-owned manned and unmanned aircraft across a wide range of business applications.
2016-07-03Rwanda Readies Life-Saving Drone Delivery System
This summer, small autonomous airplanes will begin carrying life-saving blood to 20 hospitals and healthcare centers across Western Rwanda, Africa, in one of the first-of-its-kind drone-based delivery demonstrations.
Beaverton, Oregon-based drone startup DroneSeed created a drone with a device that fires seeds into the ground using compressed air in an effort to reforest the Pacific Northwest, and eventually forests around the world.
2016-06-21FAA Finalizes Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration has finalized the first operational rules for routine commercial use of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or “drones”), opening pathways towards fully integrating UAS into the nation’s airspace. These new regulations work to harness new innovations safely, to spur job growth, advance critical scientific research and save lives.
2016-06-17Embry-Riddle Consumer Guide to sUAS for Novices
A research team at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Worldwide Campus has created the first-ever comprehensive consumer guide to small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for novice users–those individuals interested in purchasing their first small remote controlled or autonomous multi-rotor flying aircraft.
2016-06-09DroneDeploy Users Map 3,000,000 Acres
At the Drones Data X Conference in San Francisco, Mike Winn, co-founder and CEO of DroneDeploy, announced in his keynote that our users had achieved a new industry milestone: 3,000,000 drone mapped acres across 120 countries.
2016-06-01Companies Team for UAS Inspection of Wind Turbines
Two companies involved in aerial wind inspection services, HUVRdata, based in Austin, TX and EdgeData based in Grand Forks, ND, announced a collaboration to deliver a suite of wind industry data intelligence tools and credential processes to optimize the use of this technology within the wind industry.
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Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
Swarms of Drones Test New Dogfighting Skills
2012-04-05 Hydrogen-powered Fuel Cell Flies ScanEagle