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DRI unmanned cloud-seeding project gains ejectable flare capability

RENO – Unmanned aerial cloud-seeding reached a new milestone through the successful integration and deployment of 14 ejectable cloud-seeding flares at low altitude.

In several test passes, Drone America’s Savant™ sUAS aircraft deployed its silver-iodide cloud-seeding payload 75-feet over the Hawthorne Industrial Airport’s runway with direct supervision from local fire crews and airport authorities while being monitored by Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS).

The test was performed under the state’s FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site designation on Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

Savant EJTest 060816 002"The Nevada Cloud Seeding team once again demonstrated their ability to complete a new research milestone and become the thought leader in this critical UAS area.  From mission planning, risk mitigation, innovative design through execution, the Nevada Team is on the fringe of developing an amazing capability that will benefit many industries,” said Chris Walach, Ph.D., Director of Operations for the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site. “I very much look forward to their fully operational Cloud Seeding UAS capability.”

The Savant™ sUAS, also named the “Sandoval Silver State Seeder” in honor of Governor Brian Sandoval’s support for the state’s UAS industry, deployed a total of 17 silver-iodide flares which further demonstrates the ability to perform unmanned aerial cloud seeding operations in the near future.

“We are very proud to work with project members DRI, AviSight, NIAS, the town of Hawthorne and The Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development in continuing to successfully test unmanned aerial cloud-seeding,” said Mike Richards, President and CEO of Drone America. “These tests are critical to the success of this ground breaking program, which will prove our ability to perform safe, reliable and cost effective Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) commercial cloud-seeding operations.”

Supported by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development through the Knowledge Fund, this unique project is being led by the Desert Research Institute (DRI) to help address Nevada’s ongoing battle with drought and to explore creative solutions for natural-resource challenges, such as supplementing water supplies. The research team at DRI has more than 30 years of weather modification research and expertise.

Drone America performed the test flight under Nevada UAS Test Sites Certificate of Authorization (COA) and led by the DRI flight operations node which allows the Savant™ sUAS to fly up to 1,200 feet.

“This first flight conducted by our team under the direction of DRI as a Nevada UAS Test Site flight operations node is an exciting milestone, because it illustrates the record of safe and professional operations our team has built and provides for increased flexibility in our future flight testing and operations,” said said Adam Watts, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project and an assistant research professor at DRI.

Savant EJTest 060716 001Aerial support for the test operations was conducted by AviSight, who used their manned aircraft to record the flight using visual and infrared cameras. The data collected is being used to further refine systems, which will help move the project beyond line of sight.

"This is a great opportunity for Hawthorne, NIAS and this team to be a part of this exciting new industry,” said Lt. Colonel (Ret.) James Fleitz, Co-Founder of AviSight. “Proving that both ejectable as well as standard burn cloud-seeding flares work from the Savant™ sUAS aircraft are huge accomplishments and further proves our groups capabilities.”

Lastly, while every person and group on this project pour their time and hearts into this cloud-seeding project, the entire Nevada Cloud Seeding team would like to take a moment to specially thank Betty Easley, Hawthorne Industrial Airport Manager. Ms. Easley has gone above and beyond her duties to help our team feel welcomed to Hawthorne and to help us succeed in the one-of-a-kind project. The entire team on this unique project is deeply grateful to be continuing to work with her in all future tests at Hawthorne Industrial Airport.

Photo Captions:

  1. Drone America's Savant sUAS fires several ejectable flares at the Hawthorne Industrial Airport on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 in Hawthorne, Nev. Photo Credit: Kevin Clifford/Drone America
  2. Drone America's Savant sUAS flies into the sun while performing a flight test at the Hawthorne Industrial Airport on Monday, June 6, 2016 in Hawthorne, Nev. Photo Credit: Kevin Clifford/Drone America

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About the Desert Research Institute: DRI, the nonprofit research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education, is a world leader in environmental sciences through the application of knowledge and technologies to improve people’s lives throughout Nevada and the world. For more information about DRI’s cloud seeding program please visit www.dri.edu

About Drone America: Drone America strives to be one of the World’s Top Providers of Autonomous Unmanned Vehicles, high tech equipment and services. Our mission is to use UAS technologies as a means to survey, protect, and preserve human life and strategic resources around the Globe. For more information about Drone America please visit www.droneamerica.com/

About AviSight: AviSight is an aerospace and remote sensing services company based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our company employs Aerospace systems, Remote Sensing technology, Analytics, and Data Collection/Distribution systems for commercial and government clients. For more information about AviSight please visit www.avisight.com/

About the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS): On behalf of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, NIAS helps to grow the Autonomous Systems Industry through business teaming, partnerships, research and development, and education awareness in order to bring in business and jobs to the State of Nevada and to facilitate full and safe UAS integration into the National Airspace System. Learn more at www.nias-uas.com.

For additional photos and b-roll video of the flight please contact:

Justin Broglio
Communications Officer, Desert Research Institute
Ph: (775) 673-7610 
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@DRIScience

Kevin Clifford
Marketing & Communications Manager, Drone America
Ph: (775) 473-9998
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@Drone_America

Chris Walach
Director of Operations—Unmanned Aviation with the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site on behalf of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development
Ph: (702) 793-4219
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