China deploys rain-seeding drones to end drought in Sichuan

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) – China is using two massive drones to seed rainclouds in Sichuan province to try to end a devastating drought that has choked power output and disrupted supply chains of global giants like Apple and Tesla.

The China Meteorological Administration launched drones in northern and southeastern Sichuan on Thursday (Aug 25) morning, and the aircraft will eventually cover an area of 6,000 square kilometres in operations lasting through Monday, state-owned CCTV reported.

Seeding works by dropping an ice-forming agent like silver iodide into a cloud that already contains ample moisture. Rain droplets gather around the agent, gaining weight until they begin to fall.

China has a long history of using the technology to water crop fields, cool blistering cities and make sure skies are clear for events like the Olympics.

Local governments in Sichuan and Chongqing have implemented power cuts for industrial plants and households as the region faces searing heat and severe drought, which has increased air conditioning use while depleting hydropower reserves on which the region depends.

Though electricity curbs in Sichuan were scheduled to end by Friday, fertiliser manufacturer Sichuan Lutianhua said it will remain closed as a result of the continuing heat, China Business News reported, citing the company.

Honda Motor’s plant in Chongqing will remain closed through this week after the local government extended power restrictions, the automaker said on Thursday.

Temperatures in Chengdu, Sichuan’s capital, are forecast to fall to 31 deg C on Friday, according to the meteorological administration.

Heavy rain hit parts of the province on Thursday night, forcing officials to relocate about 30,000 people living in danger zones, state-owned CCTV reported.