New Pilot

Pollen and Drones

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If drone pilots are thinking about flying their quadcopters during the spring while pollen is everywhere, they may wish to reconsider. Here is the potential problem. When pollen coats the grassy fields where drones take off and land, prop wash is going to be blown everywhere. The electonic board that is the "brains" of the drone emits a small electromagnetic charge. Pollen grains, though very tiny, carry a negative charge. Now, consider the following analogy: In an automotive production line where the metal body is carried into the enclosed paint booth, the body will be made to carry a positive electromagnetic charge. To make the paint particles evenly cover the car body, the paint is negatively charged. 

Get the picture? Even though pollen may seem innocuous, the particles will be attracted to the electronics on the computer board. Can a pilot imagine the havoc created when these tiny, tiny grains interfere with functions designed to "communicate" with the transmitter? I see one significant potential problem: an interesting communication drop-out that turns into a fly away.

Now, some of the more experienced pilots may say that Jim, the New Pilot, is way, way out in "left field" and doesn't know what he's talking about. Well, I've seen pollen "float over" to my ST10+ transmitter while I fly my drone. (This phenomenon occurred last week.) If pollen coats my LCD screen in the field, where is the other pollen hanging out?

Something to consider.

Jim, New Pilot

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Jim,

Fantastic way to bring in science, and more specifically molecular biology into the world of drones. A couple of things to consider, Though nearly all pollen from various species of Angiosperms have been found to have a charge, it is not always negative. Some pollen from the same plant will be positive some will be negative, it has to do with the natural reduction or oxidation that occurs along the surface of the pollen with the interface of the air, and other molecules. Essentially they could not all become negative as the attractive force between them and the positive plant would cause some back flow of electrons. The the electromagnetic fields (static or dynamic) generated by the components in the controller, on the LED, or LCD screen can certainly attribute to some "static cling", electromagnetic attraction, between the surface of the pollen and the surface of the components. It becomes more complex as you consider the other natural phenomenon that occur simultaneously, for example pressure differentials between the wash from the props and the jet of air around the drone, the Coanda effect streamlining jets around the curved surfaces, and even Brownian motion and diffusion come into play. heck even the transpiration from the trees, and the natural evaporation from the pond will pay a significant role in the distribution of charges in aerosol molecules.

All that considered unless you are flying in a situation in which the pollen count is so high (maybe even to the tune of 1000-10000 ppm, which may be possible in spring time "or pollination time") the build up from one flight should be negligible so long as you are doing your part to to remember to check and clean the drone. If you are regularly flying in this area it would be a good practice to clean the components regularly, as build up over multiple flights could definitely cause problems from the transmitter, the gimbals, even the prop motors could be effected.

 

a little research from the EPA on "electrostatic forces in wind-pollination"

https://cfpub.epa.gov/si/si_public_record_report.cfm?dirEntryId=161049

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Alan and Remotely Possible,

I really appreciate the feedback to my theory of pollen attraction to a drone. Alan, maybe you should contact Mythbusters and present this idea to the producers. I believe this "myth" would intrigue both Adam and Jamie. It certainly is a different idea from what the show usually investigates. Add to this your reputation among drone owners/flyers and it may be possible that their interest could be grabbed.  If this theory came from you, there may be some higher interest from the show.

To Remotely Possible, thank you very much for the actual science behind pollen with either a possible or negative charge. And, I was not aware of the different airflows around a drone. I suppose if a drone were in a wind tunnel and airflow could be created with the requisite smoke would illustrate the effects of pollen attraction. I would very much appreciate an explanation of the Coanda Effect as well as the Brownian motion you presented in your response in relation to my concern for pollen attraction and components, even the prop motors.

As to high pollen count on our farm, the count is high. This information comes from our local CBS affiliate in Savannah Ga. When I watch the local weather report, John Wetherbee, the Chief Meterologist, will give viewers the pollen count. I will err on the side of caution and keep my "bird" in the house until the pollen is all gone. 

Thanks very much,

Jim

 

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On 3/21/2016 at 2:57 PM, New Pilot said:

I really appreciate the feedback to my theory of pollen attraction to a drone. Alan, maybe you should contact Mythbusters and present this idea to the producers. I believe this "myth" would intrigue both Adam and Jamie. It certainly is a different idea from what the show usually investigates. Add to this your reputation among drone owners/flyers and it may be possible that their interest could be grabbed.  If this theory came from you, there may be some higher interest from the show.

 

If the show was still running, I'd be all over it :)

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