UAS Project to Increase Snowpack in Nevada Mountains

2016-02-12

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 Nevadas 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 projects 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 Americas 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, DRIs cloud seeding program adds approximately 14,000 acre-feet (4.5 billion gallons) of water to the Truckee River watersheds 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 Americas 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 Sandovals Office of Economic Development and the States 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 projects 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 DRIs current Lake Tahoe Basin operations area.

This project is going to notably advance Nevadas UAS industry, said Steve Hill, Executive Director of the Nevada Governors 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 projects Knowledge Fund grant will provide $400,000 to the project over the next two years.




Embry-Riddle Consumer Guide to sUAS for Novices

2016-06-17
Embry-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.

DroneDeploy Users Map 3,000,000 Acres

2016-06-09
DroneDeploy 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.

Companies Team for UAS Inspection of Wind Turbines

2016-06-01
Companies 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.

DARPA Demo Day at the Pentagon

2016-05-15
DARPA Demo Day at the Pentagon
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency yesterday hosted DARPA Demo Day 2016 at the Pentagon, giving the Defense Department community an up-close look at the agency’s portfolio of innovative technologies and military systems.

FAA Enables Section 333 UAS Registration Online

2016-04-25
FAA Enables Section 333 UAS Registration Online
What’s not to like about an automated government system thats faster, simpler and more user-friendly than the paper-based system it supplements?

Europe Wants UAS for Migrant Route Surveillance

2016-04-19
Europe Wants UAS for Migrant Route Surveillance
EU border patrol agency Frontex announced Friday that it is in talks with industry for using remotely piloted aircraft for maritime surveillance, adding drones to its existing portfolio of satellite and sensor technologies for monitoring vessel traffic and migrant flows.

AUVSI Study of FAA Exemptions Published

2016-04-17
AUVSI Study of FAA Exemptions Published
The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) has released an interactive analysis that finds 38 types of business operations have been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly unmanned aircraft systems commercially in the National Airspace System (NAS). According to the report that analyzed more than 3,000 FAA exemptions, aerial photography received the most, followed by real estate and aerial inspection. The report also finds that exemptions have been approved in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Senate Bill Calls for Certification of Unmanned Aircraft

2016-03-26
Senate Bill Calls for Certification of Unmanned Aircraft
The Senate’s version of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2016 has finally made it out of committee, and it contains 65 pages of requirements for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). Some of these provisions go to the heart of the Federal Aviation Administrations (FAA) philosophy for dealing with unmanned aircraft. If enacted, the legislation could have a profound impact on the development of this industry.

Antimatter Space Propulsion Possible within a Decade

2016-03-15
Antimatter Space Propulsion Possible within a Decade
Dreams of antimatter space propulsion are closer to reality than most rocket scientists could ever imagine, says former Fermilab physicist Gerald Jackson. In fact, if money were no object, he says an antimatter-driven spacecraft prototype could be tested within a decade. To that end, next month, Jackson and his Chicago-based Hbar Technologies firm are launching a $200,000 Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the next phase of its antimatter propulsion research.

FAA Announces Effort to Expand the Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft

2016-02-28
FAA Announces Effort to Expand the Safe Integration of Unmanned Aircraft
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is establishing an aviation rulemaking committee (PDF)with industry stakeholders to develop recommendations for a regulatory framework that would allow certain UAS to be operated over people who are not directly involved in the operation of the aircraft.


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