RENO, Nev., May 4 (UPI) -- This week, engineers with the Desert Research Institute announced that their Drone America Savant unmanned aircraft had successfully ascended to 400 feet and deployed two silver-iodide flares.
The 18-minute test flight occurred late last week, proving -- researchers say -- that the unmanned aerial vehicle is ready for the cloud-seeding work for which it was designed.
Silver iodide is similar in structure to ice, and cloud-seeding scientists believe it encourages ice crystal formation, triggering clouds to produce precipitation.
"This is a tremendous accomplishment for the state of Nevada and everyone involved," Adam Watts, lead scientist on the project, said in a news release.
The drone, which boasts a wingspan of just under 12 feet and weighs 55 pounds, was built to test cloud-seeding technologies.
"We have reached another major milestone in our effort to reduce both the risks and the costs in the cloud seeding industry and help mitigate natural disasters caused by drought, hail and extreme fog," said Mike Richards, president and CEO of Drone America.
Designers at Drone America and DRI say Savant's low profile makes it resistant to wind and ideal for use in adverse weather conditions.
Researchers say they will now begin to employ the Savant drone to study weather patterns and build forecast models as well as test a variety of cloud-seeding technologies.