RENO – Nevada’s unmanned cloud-seeding research team today realized another fundamental capability in its 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 aircraft reached an altitude of 1,200 feet and completed a one-hour BVLOS flight covering a total distance of over 30 miles on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.

Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) 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.

“Today we 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 altitudes, 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, while extracting significant atmospheric data from the clouds.” 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,” said Chris Walach, Ph.D., Director of Operations for the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and the FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site. “And when combined with the NASA tested BVLOS drone flights at the Reno-Stead Airport late last year, this again demonstrates Nevada’s foremost capability to lead and support the nation’s UAS industry and help integrate unmanned aircraft into the national airspace.”

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’s cloud seeding program 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): On behalf of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, NIAS helps to grow the Autonomous Systems Industry through business teaming, partnerships, research and development, and education awareness in order to bring in business and jobs to the State of Nevada and to facilitate full and safe UAS integration into the National Airspace System. Learn more at www.nias-uas.com.