From surveillance drones to armed warfare drones to A.I. drones to delivery drones, it seems every year tech developers and researchers come up with some new unexpected application for UAVs, bringing humanity closer to some future Skynet dystopian scenario where robots are ruling the skies overhead.
That's precisely what comes to mind with the latest drone project out of the United Arab Emirates. The ultra-wealthy oil and gas sheikdom is developing 'weather-engineering drones' that can produce rain or alter weather patterns.
The technology is being described as centering on the drones' ability to deliver an electric shock while hovering in clouds. While the UAE already invests in cloud-seeding technology via other means due to its mere 100mm per year in average rainfall, it's currently seeking multiple ways to seed and essentially "engineer" what clouds do.
The BBC describes this latest initiative as follows:
Drones that fly into clouds, giving them an electric shock to "cajole them" into producing rain, are about to be tested in the United Arab Emirates.
The country already uses cloud-seeding technology, dropping salt to encourage precipitation.
...In 2017, the government provided $15m (£10.8m) for nine different rain-enhancement projects.
And citing one field expert, "The project aims to change the balance of electrical charge on cloud droplets, explained Prof Maarten Ambaum, who worked on the project," the BBC continues.
The electrical charge theoretically allows the miniscule water droplets present in clouds to "merge and stick together" in order to grow large enough to fall as rain drops.
A UK team of scientists is expected to head up the initiative in cooperation with the UAE government. Arab News reports further that "The UAE has paid $1.4 million to the UK team to test how an electric charge can expand and merge water droplets to develop into rainfall."
The UAE is actually known for having an abundance of clouds on any given day; however, they rarely actually produce any level of precipitation.