The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a massive problem with a limited supply of rainwater. With an average rainfall of just 100 mm per year, the constitutional monarchy is ranked among the most water-stressed countries in the world.
For years now, the country’s government has been investing heavily in various cloud-seeding missions aimed to increase the annual rainfall. For example, the UAE has been relatively successfully triggering rain by firing salt particles into clouds from airplanes to make individual water particles heavier and more likely to punch holes in the clouds.
Now, UAE scientists have partnered with their colleagues from the University of Reading, England, to make it rain more in the parched country by literary giving clouds electric shocks.
“Equipped with a payload of electric charge-emitting instruments and custom sensors, these drones will fly at low altitudes and provide an electric charge to air molecules, which should stimulate precipitation,” explains Alya Al-Mazroui, the Director of the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement Science.
By deploying an electric current with negative and positive ions, the drones will basically attempt to recreate the natural phenomenon that causes dry hair to be attracted to a plastic comb. Since particles with opposite charges attract each other, the electricity unleashing drones should theoretically cause small droplets of water to merge into more subscription cloud formations and eventually lead to rain.
“Our project aims to evaluate the importance of charge in affecting the cloud droplet size distribution and rainfall generation through modifying the behavior of droplets and particles and studying the microphysical and electric properties of fog events,” says Professor Giles Harrison, a Professor of Atmospheric Physics in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading.
The effectiveness and safety of various cloud-seeding practices, including those explored by the UAE, are still debated by scientists. Concerns have been raised about their geopolitical implications, with wealthy, technologically advanced countries potentially “stealing” rainwater that would otherwise naturally end up in poorer countries.
Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 To Help Climate Technology Startups
The initiative was announced at the COP28 summit and will help selected startups with a $200,000 cash injection and further incentives.
Hub71, Abu Dhabi’s global technology system, has launched a new initiative to support climate technology startups backed by several of the UAE’s largest public and private sector organizations.
A total of 342 startups have submitted applications so far, with the top companies being added to a shortlist that will be revealed shortly. Selected startups will receive Dh250,000 ($68,000) in incentives and an upfront cash support package of Dh250,000. In addition, the top performers of Hub71’s new initiative will also receive a top-up of up to Dh250,000 in exchange for additional equity.
Ahmad Alwan, deputy chief executive of Hub71, said: “This initiative aims to bring in different entities that have a shared mission towards climate tech […] Throughout the journey, we will support these companies, not only from being startups to becoming mature companies but also to facilitate their engagement with entities that would support them with access to capital, market, and talent”.
The Hub71+ ClimateTech ecosystem is backed by the Abu Dhabi National Energy Company and the National Central Cooling Company, who have each pledged Dh500,000 to the initiative as anchor partners.
They are joined by corporate partners, including Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ, Aldar Properties, sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Masdar City, and Dubai’s Emirates NBD. In addition, Siemens Energy is also onboard as an anchor partner.
So far, Hub71 has helped 260 member startups and created over 1,000 jobs, according to the organization’s website. In addition, it has collectively raised around Dh5 billion since its foundation in 2019.