Corona del Mar Today: A view from above the Civic Center site

September 24, 2011|By Amy Senk

Walking along the perimeter of the Civic Center Construction project, Matt and Yoland McNutt have a view of every detail of the work going on behind the fence — with the help of an 18-foot blimp rigged with a remote-controlled camera.

"Let's go a little lower," Yolanda says as Matt pulls the tether.

Then she angles the camera and zooms in on the workers, the crane and the pieces of steel being placed at the project site off MacArthur Boulevard.

Every month, the McNutts bring their blimp to the site to get detailed photos, which the contractors use to provide city officials with updates.


Before construction began, the photos were used to assess views from nearby homes and businesses, said William Hahn, a program manager with C.W. Driver, the company building the Civic Center.

"It was used as a guide," he said. "It was the best way to see, 'What do people see from these homes, from those, from those over there,'" he said. "Now we use the photos for progress reports. This really gives us perspective."

Construction for the project began in May 2010, and the center should be complete by the end of 2012. According to the latest city newsletter updating the project, the large crane on site is hoisting and setting steel pieces.

The crane's highest point reaches 160 feet from the ground but will be lowered each day to minimize its impact, the newsletter said, and likely will be used until January 2012.

The McNutts' business is Low Altitude Blimp Photography and is based in Moorpark. They started the company in 1994 after a friend of a relative told them about low-altitude blimps.

Currently, they offer aerial photography services for construction firms as well as well as other groups, and they have a pilot they use when they need to shoot from helicopters or planes.

The blimp, they said, is 18 feet long and about 7 feet wide. It's filled with helium and can hold equipment of up to 11 pounds. It cost about $1,200.

As they raised it to the air on Monday morning to a height of about 150 feet, several passersby stopped to ask them what they were doing.

"Very cool," one man shouted.

"I've seen you here before," a woman asked. "What are you doing?"

Yolanda McNutt handles the photography, as well as guiding Matthew, who is legally blind. Watching out for overhead lines and streetlights is key, and she will tell him to lower the blimp to avoid causing damage to it.

They typically will submit about 60 photographs a month, at a cost of a few hundred dollars a set.

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