Drone operator turns flying into business

Drone operator turns flying into business


By Dan Reidel, Chico Enterprise-Record

Chico >> Relying on hand movements learned while driving radio-controlled cars and planes, Joshua Chastain hovers the quadcopter and then moves it in sweeping aerials, all while the on-board camera clicks pictures and films video.

Chastain has built a business using drones for videography and photography, and he hopes to grow First Person View Solutions into a tool for more than just fun pictures and cool YouTube videos.

The Magalia resident first got excited about drones after he saw an RC plane with an action camera strapped on with duct tape. He had always liked RC cars and planes, but the camera gave a new view of the world, and a drone made it even easier to get that view. He started flying drones about three years ago, and he started First Person View Solutions about a year and a half ago.

It was Chastain’s drone flying above City Plaza when the startup Soul id brought snow from Lassen Volcanic National Park for a snowboard and skiing rail competition on Feb. 20.

He also shoots sporting events with BeastUp energy drinks and regularly demonstrates the abilities of drone photography.

“I try to do demos as often as possible,” Chastain said.

Chastain works with a network of photographers taking pictures for weddings.

“We’re able to give clients all-inclusive photography,” said Wendy Stewart, a photographer Chastain has worked with for several months.

While Stewart takes more traditional photos, Chastain flies the drone overhead for views she can’t reach, no matter how tall a ladder she can climb.

Chastain contacted Stewart through her website, www.chicobephotography.com, and they met for the first time at Horseshoe Lake in upper Bidwell Park.

“We hit it off, and he flew the drone, and I was hooked,” Stewart said.

They photograph mostly weddings, but Stewart and Chastain have also worked together at senior portrait and family portrait shoots.

Chastain takes his kids along when he practices flying with smaller training craft and when he and Stewart meet for work, the kids play together. Chastain has a 2-month-old, a 2-year-old and 4-year-old, the older two of whom enjoy chasing the flying machines.

“My kids are young so they’re not flying yet, but they will be.”

While the kids are always excited about dad’s aircraft, Chastain’s fiance, Rose Bublitz, isn’t always as excited about his work.

“I think she gets annoyed sometimes because I’m always excited about flying,” Chastain said with a laugh. “She likes it though.”

Governmental agencies are constantly discussing the legality of flying drones.

“As of now, it’s not illegal to fly, not illegal to make money,” he said.

The Federal Aviation Administration has set some rules that include registering and passing a flight proficiency test. There are also some restrictions on how high the drone can go, and the operator has to be able to see the craft at all times.

Chastain said many of the high-end drones, like his DJI Vision 2+ and his 3D Robotics IRIS flyers, have built-in GPS systems that also won’t allow the drones to fly over sensitive government areas, near airports or other off-limits areas. He also won’t fly if wind conditions present a danger. His drones will come back automatically if they lose signal and will not land when there are moving objects below.

One of Chastain’s goals is to help take away some of the negative ideas associated with drone flying, like drones will be spying on people in their homes, and show the positive aspects of what the machines can do, including for public service agencies like police and fire departments.

“They can act as an ‘eye in the sky’ for SWAT teams,” Chastain said. “Police can see the whole building if they’re in a robbery situation.”

There are other ways the drones can help police and firefighters, especially in emergency rescue situations, where his drones can show exactly where fires, vehicles and personnel are in real-time, and he can get a drone up in a matter of minutes, he said.

Chastain has not yet partnered or demonstrated the abilities to public service groups like police and firefighters.

“That’s where we hope to be in the future — working with mainstream agencies,” he said.

For more about Chastain’s business, visit www.fpvsolutions1.com.