The dust created from pulverizing dry stalks of corn, 16 rows at a time, was enough to bind the gears on my drone camera gimbal when I flew the craft too low and close to the combine as farmer Chris Gould harvested part of his thousands of acres of corn crop in southwest Kane County last month.
I like to record drone photos looking straight down on subjects, as this harvesting picture depicts. But while flying my DJI Mavic Pro around the enormous combine and wide-open spaces with no buildings, people or traffic in site, I felt the freedom to challenge my piloting abilities and fly low and close to the work being done.
What I didn’t consider was the amount of dust in the air and how it would affect the delicate workings of the drone.
Combines cut the stalk at the ground and pull it into the huge machine, where a rotating drum separates the kernels from the ear. The kernels are sent to the bin on top of the machine while the stalk and leaves are shredded and thrown out the rear of the combine, creating a lot of dust.
The dust found its way into the drone and when the camera started to stick and jump as I tried to pan it’s movement, I decided to stay well above the dust cloud and capture the photo I originally planned.
• If you have suggestions for our drone pilots, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your idea.