Drone guy


Donald Abbott, an assistant professor at Truckee Meadows Community College who teaches refrigeration theory and other courses and also works for an air conditioning firm, has been drifting into photography. He took the top photo of “Last Chance Joe” on page 9 with a camera mounted on a drone.

What made you get into photography?

I work at the Sparks Heritage Museum. I’m a volunteer there. And it’s neat to see those pictures that are 50 years old or 60 years old, and I just wanted to try to start logging pictures like that for future generations to look back on.

Where did you get the drone?

A hobby store on Wells Avenue. … I looked online. I compared models. And they [the store] had a comparable model.

What was it like learning it?

A little nerve wracking, a little nervous when you’re flying an expensive piece of equipment in the air that you can put into a street. But it’s a blast, a lot of fun. You know, like a kid in a candy store.

Have you encountered any legal problems?

Not yet. I stay within the boundaries. You know, I don’t go flying over people’s homes or near hotels or anything like that. I’ve had people take pictures of it and come over and talk to me about it, how neat it is—especially when I show them the pictures. … The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] allows flying it up to 400 feet.

You approached the police about shooting the Sparks Christmas parade?

I didn’t talk to the police. I talked to the city, the people at the city that were in charge of the parade.

And what was the reaction?

They didn’t want me to do it, just for liability purposes, of course. Flying, it could malfunction; it could come over, fall down and hurt a kid. … You shouldn’t do that, anyway. That was their response.

Did you consider just shooting the parade without asking anyone?

The thought crossed my mind, but, you know, I don’t want to get in any type of trouble over something silly like that. You know, that’s not worth it to me. And since I asked them, I’m going to respect their decision.

Where did you first practice with it?

My backyard.

And how did it go?

I put it into a tree. [Laughs.]

As you continue practicing, what are you trying?

I’ve been practicing panning around objects, like a smooth pan around a stand-alone object. Eventually I’d like to pan around a moving vehicle or surfboard or something like that. Also, getting close to things and not being nervous about hitting them. Going down hallways. I think it would be neat to get some footage going underneath a bridge or something like that. But I don’t trust myself fully yet for that.

Abbott's footage of the move of the Nugget statue of “Last Chance Joe” can be viewed at http://youtu.be/Eo-kpP6qLrk.