"The water table is sinking drastically in [the] UAE and the purpose of this is to try to help with rainfall."
The United Arab Emirates is about to test an unusual, high-tech way of triggering more rainfall: flying drones into clouds and zapping them with electricity to trigger showers.
Scientists from England's University of Reading helped develop a series of drones that can fly up into existing clouds and alter water droplets' electrical charge so they clump together "like dry hair to a comb," Reading scientist Maarten Ambaum told the BBC. If it works, it could help replenish the faltering water supply around large cities like Dubai — and usher in a new era of human control over weather.
Because the UAE already uses cloud seeding technology to induce condensation and create clouds in the first place, the zapping drones would give the country even greater control over the water cycle.
"Equipped with a payload of electric-charge emission instruments and customized sensors, these drones will fly at low altitudes and deliver an electric charge to air molecules, which should encourage precipitation," UAE rain-enhancement science-research program director Alya Al-Mazroui told Arab News.
Fill 'Er Up
Weather modification systems aren't without their controversy. Cloud seeding has been around for decades, but potential misuse of the technology has experts concerned about geopolitical ramifications, especially in China.
In this case, however, the weather-controlling tech has a clear use case of helping to provide water to large desert cities that risk depleting the water that's naturally available.
"The water table is sinking drastically in [the] UAE and the purpose of this is to try to help with rainfall," Ambaum told the BBC.
READ MORE: UAE to test cloud-busting drones to boost rainfall [BBC News]
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