The Elevators of Mossleigh and Herronton

The small Alberta hamlet of Mossleigh has something that few prairie towns can still lay claim to, a row of three grain elevators.  While this was once a common sight, these prairie icons are rapidly disappearing and seeing three in a row is a rare occurrence.  It is no wonder that, after obtaining my DJI Mavic Pro, one of the first places I wanted to fly was Mossleigh.


Looking south down the row of elevators in Mossleigh.  Photo taken July 31, 2011

Herronton is even smaller than Mossleigh.  Where Mossleigh can lay claim to a service station, a restaurant, and Aspen Crossing, there is not much in the way of business in Herronton.  Only a few residents remain in the town, but it does boast a fine grain elevator, still with the classic Alberta Wheat Pool logo on the north side.

Between Mossleigh and Herronton was Farrow.  The last vestige of Farrow was the town’s grain elevator.  With its fading United Grain Growers logo and large gouge in the northeast side, it was very unique and photogenic.  Sadly the elevator’s owner burned it to the ground in December of 2011 (maybe 2012?) and nothing remains in Farrow any more.


Farrow, Alberta — July 31,2011

If you remember yesterday’s posting, I mentioned a heartstopping moment I had with the drone in Herronton.  Watch the footage I captured and then I’ll explain what happened.

See the end of the video?  The long shot along the tracks flying towards the elevator in Herronton?  Well, after getting that shot I turned the drone around and started flying back towards the car.  However, the wind was blowing so strong from the west that drone was having trouble covering any ground.  I was only able to fly at about 1 or 2 meters per second.  My battery had about three minutes of life left and I was about 400m or so away — do the math and the result was not going to be pretty.

Fortunately, the videos I had watched on YouTube prepared me and I was able to remain calm and work out a solution.  First, I immediately put the gimbal straight down to the ground so I could see where the drone was hovering.  Once I had established that I was above an open space and it would be safe to make an emergency landing if needed, I flipped the Mavic into Sport mode, which provides me with more power and speed.

Having pre-scouted the landscape on our way through town, I knew there were no power lines, trees, or other obstructions that I needed to worry about between the drone and my position.  I had been flying the drone at about 45m of altitude (to make sure I would clear the grain elevator if needed) so I dropped it down to 20m to try and escape the worst of the wind.  Then, using Sport mode and the downward camera view, I was able to navigate by following the main road out of town and back to my location.  In the end I made it with lots of battery to spare, but my heart was pounding pretty strongly when I first pushed that forward stick and the drone wasn’t able to move.

This is a very important lesson.  Always watch the wind speed and direction.  Just because you can get your drone out somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll be able to get it back if you had a tailwind on the way.  I knew this but I misjudged just how strong the winds were up 45m above the ground.

Safe droning and happy exploring, everyone!


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