Chronically water-poor United Arab Emirates has been investing millions in recent years into technology capable of squeezing moisture from otherwise parsimonious clouds overhead. Now, desperate for a respite from brutal heat baking the nation this summer, the UAE has again deployed its drone-based rain-making tech to provoke downpours over Dubai.
UAE equips drones with laser tech to blast rain from clouds
This summer’s use by the UAE of drones to force rain from clouds marks a diversification of the tech approaches it relied on in earlier efforts. This time, as summer temperatures in Dubai rose to over 125° Fahrenheit, the UAE reportedly deployed lasers to force water from the heavens. In previous trials with UK university researchers, Emirati scientists used drones that emitted electrical shocks capable of jolting showers from otherwise unyielding clouds.
Whether the tech blasts that cover with electricity or lasers, the general reaction sought is the same. Clouds naturally carry both positive and negative charges. By shocking those with electricity or lasers, droplets of water too small and light to fall are activated to combine with others, becoming heavier drops that begin raining down on earth. Given the mere four inches of annual rain it receives each year, it’s understandable why the UAE is actively pursuing its use of drones to increase downfalls.
Yet there are other reasons why finding new tech approaches to alleviating aridity is important beyond the UAE – and even for relatively wet places concerned about protecting the environment.
Cleaner drone tech may replace chemical cloud seeding methods
Global warming is worsening water scarcity in UAE and other parched parts of the world. Any effective techniques for provoking rainfall may therefore bring some hope for over 50 parched countries on the planet.
Meanwhile, lower-tech methods used in seeding clouds up to now have raised some environmental and health concerns. Those involve aircraft firing loads of silver iodide and salt into clouds. That does produce some precipitation, but may not be ideal substances to be pouring down on humans and into local water tables.
As a consequence, the latest phase of a $15 million, multi-year program the Emirati Weather Center has been running to increase rainfall has veered away from traditional seeding, and toward tech-enhanced deployment of drones. To celebrate the effectiveness of recent trials of those more sophisticated methods, the organization posted a few videos of impressive downpours it said were produced by laser-blasting craft.
Of course, the apparent early success of the UAE to increase the rain it receives – and in so doing, lower recent hellish temperatures – will likely inspire other thirsty nations around the region to replicate it. But since clouds are limited, and contain only so much moisture that can be dropped on the ground, it’s not impossible neighboring countries may begin arguing over rights to water hovering overhead. And in a world like ours, meanwhile, it’s not unthinkable that a rogue nation might not deploy the technology with the goal of depriving surrounding enemies of badly needed surplus water.
Tech, after all, solves a great many solutions, but not the human propensity to create trouble out of nothing.
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