UAS Research at DRI

Real Life Applications


The ability of the UAS to fly over land that is not easily accessible allows for detailed real-time agricultural and environmental inspections. The UAS assists in surface topography mapping, visually assess crop health, determining water use and irrigaton efficiencies, soil erosion and ecosystem functions covering the health and productivity of millions of acres.

cloud seedingCLOUD SEEDING

The first of its kind, UASs reduce the risks and costs in the cloud seeding industry. The UAS as a tool in this capacity will improve cloud seeding operations thereby potentially increasing water supplies and weather forecasting. It measures high frequency volicity, temperatue, and humidity along with aerosol particle concentraion.

climate changeCLIMATE CHANGE

Using satellite remote sensing and high definition imaging, UASs can provide visual arial landscapes from extreme environments to hard-to-reach terrain. Through unmanned surveillance, they allow greater and safer accessibility.


The UAS plays a vital role in research related to drought preventions and mitigation. From iodine induced applications for weather modification to visual monitoring, digital mapping, soil stability and thermal stress modeling leading to drought prediction.


From designing cutting-edge weather intelligence to partnerning with industry leaders to create first of its kind technologies, the impacts have enormous potential.

wildland fireWILDLAND FIRES

From situational awareness in pre/post-burn analysis (vegetation, wildlife, hydrology) to real-time emissions and thermal monitoring and precision perimeter mapping, UASs can provide visual and tactical tool for wildland fire prediction and mitigation.


Airborne Platforms

Manned Aircraft

  • Cloud Seeding
  • Air Quality monitoring and profiling with LiDAR
  • Hyperspectral imageing for ecosystem monitoring

Unmanned Balloons

  • Air quality, chemistry and water content monitoring

Class I UAS (fixed wing and rotor)

  • Ecosystem and agricultural monitoring
  • Aerosol and cloud physics
  • Radiative and water flux measurement above and below clouds
  • Pollution monitoring
  • Situational awareness
  • Cloud Seeding

Sensor Development for Manned and Unmanned Aircraft

Large T-Probe:
Designed and fabricated by John Hallett and Rick Purcess (DRI)

  • simultaneously measures cloud liquid, ice and total water
  • currently mounted on manned NSF aircraft
  • fabricating smaller prove for UAS platform

Photoacoustic Instrument:
Designed by Pat Arnott (DRI/UNR)

  • measures aerosol light absorption and scattering, which is impacted by air pollution
  • 4 patents and commercialization of 3 versions partnering with Droplet Mearuement Technology

Air Pollution Detection Sensor Packages:
Designed by Judy Chow and John Watson

UAS Application Projects

DRI Lead:

Lynn Fenstermaker: Projects for DOE and GOED

Ken McGwire: Projects for USDA ARS

Eric Wilcox: Collaborative Projects for NSF

Adam Watts: Projects for State of Nevada (GOED)


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