The mini-planes ‘shock’ the clouds into releasing their moisture

By Michael Moran

With temperatures soaring to over 120F (49C), Dubai desperately needs rain – and a new initiative from the Brit university is delivering a bigger downpour than expected.

Drones that give clouds ‘electric shocks’ to encourage rainfall are being tested in the skies above Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates [UAE] is one of the world’s driest countries, and with a summer heatwave driving temperatures up as high as 122F (49C) locals are desperate for a few drops of rain.

Average rainfall in the Emirates is just under four inches per year (compared to almost 35” in the UK) and the UAE is only expected to get hotter and drier as climate change takes hold.

The drone technology, developed at the University of Reading, uses specialised drones equipped with a payload of electric-charge emission instruments and sensors.

Human operators on the ground guide the drones towards low-hanging clouds, where they release a burst of electricity.

Because clouds naturally carry a balance of positive and negative charges, the small electric discharges tip the balance and encourage raindrops to form.

The drones underwent preliminary testing in the UK, and at the time research coordinator Dr Keri Nicoll said: “Water scarcity is one of the biggest problems facing humanity, and climate change is providing more uncertainty around rainfall.

“In those parts of the world that are really struggling for water, projects to improve rainfall are really important.”