Efforts to coax a little extra punch out of the Sierra’s winter storms could soon involve the use of drones, with the unmanned aircraft potentially offering significant benefits when it comes to boosting the region’s water supply and putting more snow on its ski slopes.
Hopes are high that nature will offer a decent snow season after two dry years in a row. Still, Reno’s Desert Research Institute is ready to go with a proven cloud-seeding program designed to squeeze additional moisture out of those storms that do arrive.
In the Lake Tahoe-Truckee area, funding provided by regional water suppliers will allow continued operation of five mountaintop generators that spray particles of silver iodide into storm clouds, enhancing ice particle formation and boosting snowfall.
Where the mountains drain into the Walker River, three ground generators will be employed this winter in a program that also involves use of airplanes to seed storms from the air.
But a new project jointly pursued by DRI and Reno-based Drone America LLC soon will explore effectiveness of using drones for cloud seeding.
“This is the way to move the field forward, and I firmly believe that,” said Jeff Tilley, director of DRI’s weather modification program.
Testing is set to start in the Walker River drainage in the fall of 2014, with a drone likely operating out of Hawthorne and pilots controlling the aircraft from a high-tech trailer parked there.
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