For years, there have been plenty of conspiracy theories about the government building machines that control the weather, be it via cloud seeding or Nikola Tesla's weather weapon HAARP. Though it might sound like the type of exaggerated conversation piece reserved for 4Chan or niche forums, weather control processes are very real. For example, during the 2008 Beijing Olympics China shot thousands of rockets into the sky that deployed silver iodide and dry ice into the clouds, sparking a storm to erupt before it could travel over the Opening Ceremonies. Pretty soon, though, the United States might be using similar methods to control the skies, but with the help of drones.
According to an article in AccuWeather, the Federal Aviation Administration picked six test sites throughout the US in December 2013 to try out drone-based cloud seeding. The goal was to make weather control operations more cost-efficient and easier than, say, blasting thousands of fuel-guzzling rockets into the troposphere. One such site was the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Reno, Nevada, where rampant drought plagues the arid desert.
Jeff Tilley, the Director of Weather Modification Activities at DRI (yes, apparently that's a real job title), explained to AccuWeather why current cloud seeding methods need to be adjusted:
"You can very quickly go through a budget for a year's supply of fuel during one storm if you're not careful…Fuel is expensive, pilots are expensive, and often in a storm you have to go up and down multiple trips…The potential market for the [drone] technology is substantially bigger than the current cloud seeding operational community…From the state perspective, there's the potential to capture a percentage of a $90 billion revenue-producing industry."
Compared to using planes or jets to control the weather, drones are smaller, lighter, and don't require nearly as much fuel. Plus, there's no risk of a pilot hitting a mountain or getting hurt in another way.
Tesla may have been ahead of his time with his weather weapon, but he was on point. Pretty soon there might be unmanned aircrafts that function as both weapons and storm-manipulators (maybe even simultaneously). But to stay optimistic, think of the good: this technology could mean less drought, better agriculture and farming—plus, the possibility to create ski slopes or ideal movie sets at the flick of a remote control.