Dominick Decker enjoys a little closer connection with the construction going on in the Maize School District than most students: The Maize South High senior is employed to help document progress through Apollo Sky Films, a drone photography and videography business he started this year.
Decker’s first video, made for Hutton Construction, the construction manager, was shown to the Maize school board in September. Two and a half minutes long and backed up by New Age-y music, it gives an aerial view of work underway at several sites.
“They like one for every board meeting,” Decker said, adding that numerous drone flights went into making the compilation. “They want the board to be able to see the progress.”
Maize voters approved $70.7 million in bonds last year to fund improvements, including work on Maize Middle School, Maize High School and Maize South High School.
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Decker got his drone, a DJI Phantom 3 Professional, last winter. To operate it commercially, he was required to become certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“If you’re a pilot, all you have to do is take an online course and meet with a FAA representative,” he said.
And Decker is a pilot, having earned his license shortly after his 17th birthday.
“My grandpa was a pilot,” he said. “It was just something I wanted to do.”
Decker organized his business as a limited liability corporation with the help of his father, Gary, who’s a financial adviser. The Maize school job is the company’s first.
“I think being a student helped me on this one,” he said.
Maize Superintendent Chad Higgins recommended him to Hutton Construction, Decker said.
Decker said he plans to seek work with another construction company and commercial real estate firms.
He said he’s able to set and fly the drone over checkpoints, so he’ll be able to put together time-lapse videos of the construction in Maize as it progresses. He said the reaction to his first video for the school board was “pretty good,” but he was attentive to the “constructive criticism” as well. The latter was mainly suggestions that he offer longer shots from more perspectives.
“In the future, I think we can make it better,” he said.
Decker edits the videos. He is employing a friend, Cale Bontrager, as a spotter for the drone flights, which he said is required by the FAA. He may get some more classmates involved, too, because “as high-schoolers, we tend to be busy,” he said.
That certainly goes for Decker, who’s a member of the swim team and marching band and is taking courses that qualify for college credit. He’s leaning toward attending the University of Kansas and majoring in economics and business.
“I intend to one of these days hopefully own a few businesses, with this being one of them,” he said of Apollo Sky Films. “I don’t intend to be a filmmaker.”
Apollo Sky Films
Owner: Dominick Decker