Yunnan Province in southwestern China has begun deploying an industrial drone for the first time to conduct cloud seeding tasks since early September this year, in order to prevent drought in the region.
The drone tasked with the job is a TB-A UAV developed by Tengden (四川腾盾科技), a Sichuan-headquartered aviation technology startup.
With a body length of 10m and wingspan of 20m, TB-A comes with three engines and a lift of 10,000m and more.
With a load capacity of 1.4 tons, it can remain airborne for at least 40 hours.
Yunnan, known for its diverse topography and biodiversity alike, has received scarce precipitation since this year, resulting in aridness in some parts of its territory.
The water levels of its picturesque plateau lakes, including Fuxian Lake, Chenghai Lake, and Yilong Lake, have remained at an all-time low since records began, triggering alerts about a blue-green algae outbreak and heightening ecological threats to these bodies of water.
In response, the Yunnan meteorological authorities retrofitted the Tengden drone, equipping it with mounts like air monitors, cloud-seeding sprayers, and 24 bars of 125-gram silver iodide (AgI) formula, that are necessary for artificial rainmaking purposes.
The drone soared to the skies and sprayed the chemicals in an area and over a period of time considered sufficient for the precipitation-bearing congests or cumulonimbus clouds to appear.
Industrial UAVs have been used in the past across China to aid weather modification.
According to weather forecasts, since the start of autumn, cooler temperatures in Yunnan, coupled with warm, humid air currents blowing from southwest, herald the arrival of massive layers of cumulonimbus clouds.
This creates the ideal conditions for drone-led rainmaking missions.
The local meteorological authorities have embarked on a monthlong campaign to use large-sized drones, including the ones from Tengden, for cloud seeding from September 17 to October 17.
They are applied in areas like Dianchi Lake, Fuxian Lake and Yilong Lake that are most at risk from a drought.
Meanwhile, the UAVs will also monitor the air in the vicinity of these areas, to keep a close eye on the status of rainfall-bearing congests in the clouds.