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By Mary Nugent, Chico Enterprise-Record

POSTED: 09/21/15, 4:16 PM PDT | UPDATED: 2 HRS AGO

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On Monday, a drone hovers in front of a flag during Joshua Chastain’s demonstration at Amber Grove Place. The idea of the demonstration was to introduce people with dementia to new things.BILL HUSA — ENTERPRISE-RECORD

Chico >> Joshua Chastain knows why people love to watch drones. “It’s the awe factor,” he said. “I’m sure today will be the same.”

Chastain was right. He took his drone to Amber Grove Place on Monday morning, where people with dementia reside. Seated in the shade in the parking lot, about 25 residents were captivated once the drone took flight.

“I can’t believe that. I’ve never seen one before and I want it to land so I can ride on it,” laughed resident Marvel Massey.

Florence Montrond is 107 and watching the flying drone left her a little speechless. “It was exciting, just exciting,” she said.

More than a few people remarked that the drone sounded like “a swarm of bees.”

Chastain brought the drone to Amber Grove Place at the invitation of Breda Reitz, life enrichment director at Amber Grove. “I’m always looking for new things for the residents to do, something different to experience,” Reitz said.

Chastain is a full-time firefighter who also owns FPV (First Person View) Solutions, a business using drones for videography and photography. But he also tries to convey to the public the importance of being safe when flying a drone.

Chastain flies it, and while that’s happening, he gives it his sole attention. FPV Manager Ryan Ohlund oversees other details to keep everything going smoothly and safely. “I don’t even talk while I’m flying it,” Chastain said.

Safety, Chastain said, is a major consideration. “You have to have permission to fly a drone, and I never do outrageous stunts. I won’t fly if it’s too hot, too cold, or too windy. Drones are not allowed to fly over 500 feet, and you can’t fly close to houses.”

The drone reached 300 feet within seconds, and flew back down as quickly, hovering over those watching it. Chastain does not allow the to land on the ground. “It actually lands in Ryan’s hands,” he said.

He has had plenty of experience with remote-controlled cars and planes, so operating a drone wasn’t a huge challenge. He takes photos and videos from it, too, and did that for the residents of Amber Grove.

Chastain and Ohlund had a flat screen TV set up so the residents could see what the drone’s camera was capturing. The drone took pictures of them, as well as the area around where they live on The Esplanade.

He also demonstrated how the drone could return “home,” or within three feet of where it took off, on its own. He used an iPad to guide the battery-powered drone, and he said he can also use an iPhone.

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Chastain has flown the drone at public events, including above City Plaza when snow from Lassen Volcanic National Park was brought in for a snowboard and skiing competition in February. He also flew the drone above the wakeboard event this summer at One-Mile Recreation Area in Bidwell Park.

Reitz said she borrowed the idea of a having a drone fly for people with dementia. “Someone at one of our sister communities in Colorado had a drone come, and the people loved it. I knew it would work out here. It’s clear they were delighted and interested,” said Reitz.

Contact reporter Mary Nugent at 896-7764 or mnugent@chicoer.com.

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