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DRI unmanned cloud-seeding realizes beyond visual line of sight. Research team records longest unmanned, cross-country flight in Nevada history

DRI unmanned cloud-seeding realizes beyond visual line of sight. Research team records longest unmanned, cross-country flight in Nevada history

Reno, Nev. (Feb. 16, 2017) – Nevada’s unmanned cloud-seeding research team has realized another fundamental capability in their effort toward enhancing snowfall in mountainous regions of the West.

Flown at Hawthorne Industrial Airport under Nevada UAS Test Sites Certificate of Authorization (COA) and led by the Desert Research Institute (DRI) flight operations node, the Drone America Savant™ unmanned fixed-wing aircraft reached an altitude of 1,500 feet and completed a one-hour BVLOS flight covering a total distance of 28 nautical miles on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.

The test flight of the Savant™ fixed-wing cloud-seeding aircraft was the longest unmanned, cross-country round-trip flight in Nevada history.

Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) describes an aviation event in which the unmanned aircraft flies autonomously over a long distance. Flight crew members control and track the aircraft in real-time using computer-aided controls, but the pilot is not capable of visually following the aircraft during flight with the naked eye.

“We have now demonstrated without a doubt that our unmanned cloud seeding technology and capabilities can move beyond line of sight – a significant hurdle in this industry,” said Adam Watts, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project and an assistant research professor at DRI. “Most importantly, we have done this safely and in following all FAA regulations and guidelines.”

For more than a year a DRI-led research team, supported by the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development through the Knowledge Fund, has been working to develop an unmanned cloud seeding aircraft capable of helping communities address the ongoing impacts of drought and explore innovative solutions for natural-resource challenges such as augmenting regional water supplies. The research team combines more than 30 years of weather modification research and expertise at DRI with the proven experience in aerospace manufacturing and flight operations of Reno-based Drone America, and the industry leading unmanned aerial data services of Las Vegas-based AviSight.

“Reaching this milestone allows us to now focus on higher altitude, longer distance flights; as well as the extreme challenges of flying our advanced unmanned fixed-wing aircraft in the harsh, icy weather that come with optimal winter cloud-seeding conditions,” said Mike Richards, President and CEO of Drone America.

The field operation was supported by multiple ground-based safety officials and visual observers.

“Hawthorne offers an ideal location for BVLOS testing for both small and large UAS (greater than 55 pounds),” said Chris Walach, Ph.D., Director of the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site. “And, when combined with the NASA tested BVLOS drone flights at one of the Nevada UAS Test Sites late last year, this again demonstrates Nevada’s foremost capability to lead and support the nation’s UAS industry and help advance BVLOS techniques and procedures that can eventually lead to safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the national airspace.”

For more information on DRI’s unmanned cloud seeding project and UAS industry support visit – www.dri.edu

Photo Caption: The Drone America Savant™ unmanned fixed-wing aircraft during its historic 28 nautical-mile BVLOS flight on Wednesday, February 15, 2017. Credit: Zach Clark/Drone America

Additional photos and video available upon request.

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About the Desert Research Institute: DRI, the nonprofit research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education, is a world leader in environmental sciences through the application of knowledge and technologies to improve people’s lives throughout Nevada and the world. For more information about DRI please visit www.dri.edu

About Drone America: Drone America strives to be one of the World’s Top Providers of Autonomous Unmanned Vehicles, high tech equipment and services. Our mission is to use UAS technologies as a means to survey, protect, and preserve human life and strategic resources around the Globe. For more information about Drone America please visit www.droneamerica.com/

About AviSight: AviSight is an aerospace and remote sensing services company based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Our company employs Aerospace systems, Remote Sensing technology, Analytics, and Data Collection/Distribution systems for commercial and government clients. For more information about AviSight please visit www.avisight.com/

About the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS): The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and FAA-designated Nevada Unmanned Aviation Test Site leads the growth of the Nevada Unmanned Aviation Systems (UAS) Industry through business teaming relationships, collaborating with primary research institutions on UAS research and development, and enhancing the Nevada UAS Industry knowledge base to attract new and permanent business and create jobs in the State of Nevada. Learn more at www.nias-uas.com.

For additional photos and b-roll please contact:

Justin Broglio
Communications Officer, Desert Research Institute
Ph: (775) 673-7610
media@dri.edu

Mark Barker
Director of Business Development and Marketing, the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site and the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS)
Ph: (702) 793-4218
Mark.Barker@nias-uas.com

PUBLIC RECORDS NOTICE: In accordance with NRS Chapter 239, this email and responses, unless otherwise made confidential by law, may be subject to the Nevada Public Records laws and may be disclosed to the public upon request.