Team:UGent Belgium/Dispersion

Dispersion | Vsycle


Module dispersion focuses on how the produced cloud seeding agent could be dispersed in actual clouds. For this, the German company ‘Cloud seeding technologies’ was contacted regarding a pneumatic dispersion flare that they are developing. We propose this method instead of the more conventional heat-based flares, as these would destroy both our cells and proteins. Vehicles that can carry these flares to the clouds, such as planes and drones are researched in this module.

A diagram on how cloud seeding works.

Figure 1: A diagram on how cloud seeding works.

Dispersion techniques

Current cloud seeding mostly uses pyrotechnic devices such as rockets and flares to disperse the seeding agents. As the used chemicals do not decompose at high temperatures, such techniques deliver good results. However, if the Vsycle product would be used as a cloud seeding agent, heat-based dispersion techniques would not be suitable as the heat would destroy the cell membranes and denature the INPs. This is one of the reasons why INP based cloud seeding agents have not been used in the past. In search for possible solutions, we contacted the German company Cloud Seeding Technologies. They provided us with more information regarding a pneumatic flare they are developing. The advantage of using pneumatic flares is that cloud seeding agents can be dispersed without the use of heat. The flare is electronically ignited, but no burning of the active compound takes place: a pre-prepared powder is ejected by a gas propulsion without affecting its chemical composition. This flare is promising for the dispersal of our agent. The pneumatic flare has not been tested with a biological agent yet, so it is uncertain whether it would be suitable for our product. If we were able to provide them with a kilogram of our product, they could perform some experiments and give us some feedback. However, this was not realistic within our resources and timeframe of the competition. Despite this the company told us future collaboration possible.

Besides devices to disperse the agent, ways to bring these in the clouds are also needed. Flares attached to the wings of airplanes are commonly used for cloud seeding. The flares are ignited and dispersed as an aircraft flies through the clouds. Dispersal using aircrafts would be a sensible option because the required infrastructure already exists. Only the heat-based flares would have to be exchanged for the pneumatic alternative.

However, since our goal is to deliver an ecological alternative for cloud seeding, a more environmentally friendly manner of dispersing is something that has to be considered as well. Consequentially, the possibility to use drones instead was examined Matt Weiser, 2016. These are not only more ecological, but also cheaper and safer than airplanes since pilots do not have to be put in the dangerous situations like storms that are often a result of cloud seeding. Certain studies have already shown that using drones with built-in flares are possible for cloud seeding Israr, H. A., Abdullah, M. F., & Mat, S., 2016.

The octocopter, an autonomous unmanned aircraft to fly a cloud-seeding payload.

Figure 2: The octocopter, an autonomous unmanned aircraft to fly a cloud-seeding payload.

The biggest problem with drones however, is that their legislation is often very strict. This legislation is different in every country or in some cases, even different in areas in the same country. In Europe and in the United States for example, the maximum height where flying with a drone is allowed, is restricted to 120 m. This to avoid collisions with airplanes. For cloud seeding, an altitude of 2000 m is sufficient and drones that can fly this high exist at the moment. Though this could be a problem, it is possible to ask permission to the local institution that controls the airspace. Scientists are still doing research for the perfect drone to use in cloud seeding projects because it is not only the right altitude that has to be reached, it has to be strong enough to carry the agent and to fly through storms. Through our research we have found and proved that there are enough options to disperse our cloud seeding agent with the use of the pneumatic flares!