By SEAN WHALEY
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL CAPITAL BUREAU
CARSON CITY — For the first time in aviation history, a fixed-wing unmanned aircraft has successfully tested a cloud-seeding payload during an experimental flight in Nevada.
Flown at Hawthorne Industrial Airport under the state’s Federal Aviation Administration Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site designation, the Drone America Savant aircraft reached an altitude of 400 feet and flew for about 18 minutes Friday.
The drone — named the “Sandoval Silver State Seeder” in honor of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s support for the state’s drone industry — deployed two silver-iodide flares, successfully testing and demonstrating its ability to perform unmanned aerial cloud seeding operations.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the state of Nevada and everyone involved,” said the project’s lead scientist, Adam Watts, an assistant research professor at DRI and an expert in unmanned aircraft systems for ecological and natural-resources applications.
Led by the Desert Research Institute and supported by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development through the Knowledge Fund, this first-of-its-kind project is helping Nevada address the ongoing impacts of drought and explore innovative solutions for natural-resource challenges such as augmenting regional water supplies.