The first large-sized drone used for cloud seeding in China’s westernmost Tibetan Autonomous Region completed its maiden flight on July 25, marking the first such drone-enabled rainmaking operation in Tibetan history, state-run news agency Chinanews.com reported over the weekend.
Around 4:45pm, the drone, developed by Tengden (腾盾科创), took to the sky from an airport in Xigaze, the second largest city of Tibet.
The drone, type TB-A, flew in the vicinity of Yarlung Zangbo River, Lhasa River and Nyangqu River, both of which are tributaries of the Yarlung Zangbo.
Its mission was to pump silver ionides — an inorganic compound — and dry ice into the clouds to spur the creation of crystals in clouds, so as to increase rainfall.
Photo courtesy of Tengden
Tengden says that TB-A is the world’s first type of large-scale double-engine, modular, multi-role MALE (Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance) fixed wing drone.
Its double-engine configuration gives the UAV a big advantage when deployed to a plateau and maritime environment, as it can adapt to complicated weather conditions and geographies.
With a body length of 10 m and a wingspan twice as long, TB-A has a maximum takeoff mass of 28 kg.
It is able to fly a maximum 6,000 km over 35 hours in a single journey, cruising at 300 kph and soaring to 8,000 m.
In accordance with a plan set out by artificial weather modification office of China Meteorological Administration and its local counterpart in Tibet, the drone carried out the bulk of the cloud seeding job, while a stove on the ground complemented the process by burning cloud seeding chemicals.
With the precedent, weather modification personnel in Tibet and Beijing agreed to work more closely in the future to conduct similar drone-assisted cloud seeding missions on a more regular basis.