San Francisco intellectual property attorney Kory D. Christensen does quite a bit of droning.
“I’ve always been interested in photography,” Christensen said, adding that when drone manufacturer DJI released its Mavic Pro, “I bought one, and I’ve been using it ever since.”
Christensen said his legal practice frequently takes him out of the country, and it’s not uncommon for the Polsinelli LLP principal to bring along that Mavic Pro, a high-tech gadget he described as a “relatively small drone that can be put in your travel bags.”
“I have a number of international clients, so I go to China, for example, every six months or so. I also have clients in Europe,” Christensen explained, noting he’s taken the drone on “probably at least 20 trips” over the last two years.
“The best places I’ve taken it so far, internationally ... it’s a tossup between the Great Wall of China, the cliffs of Dover in the U.K., and Hong Kong,” he said. Closer to home he enjoys flying his drone along the California coast.
“I go there quite a bit — Monterey and Big Sur,” he said. “I just got back from ... Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, which was gorgeous. ... got some nice footage there.”
Although Christensen can control his drones with his phone, he prefers to operate them with his iPad because “it’s a little bit bigger screen.”
On local trips, Christensen controls his drone using a virtual reality helmet.
“When I move my head, it actually moves the drone,” he said. “So it really does gives you the feeling of being at the drone’s point of view.”
Discussing his favorite natural settings, Christensen said, “I love the contrast of where the water meets the land. Those lines are very interesting to play with, and you can capture some beautiful scenery.”
But Christensen also enjoys shooting in an urban environment.
“It’s a little trickier because there’s a lot more restrictions,” he said. “But looking down at certain buildings, there are some very interesting geometrical shapes.”
Christensen said he also tries to post drone footage daily on his Instagram account @adventurousdrone — which has attracted over 7,000 followers.
“There’s a lot of sites out there that will do a compilation of a lot of different places, but ... I only post things that I do. These are all places I’ve taken the drones,” he said. “It’s always growing. People seem to be interested in seeing where this drone goes.”
At this stage, however, Christensen said droning is more of a hobby.
“I’d always planned to do the law, but it’s a great thing to do on the side,” Christensen said of droning. “I’d like to do it semi-professionally.”
The patent attorney is familiar with “quite a [few] people in the industry” and has many friends who capture footage with drones.
“Some of them have been able to sell their footage to National Geographic,” Christensen said.
Polsinelli associate Jacek M. Wnuk, who described Christensen as a very talented attorney, said his colleague has “a lot of cool, quirky electronics in his office.” “He’s shown me lots of photos,” added Wnuk, who follows Christensen’s Instagram account. “He’s been pretty active in the drone space for a little while.”
Classifying his history as “kind of unique,” Christensen said, “I have an engineering background focusing on computer science. So a lot of the stuff ... the technical operation of the drone, I understand very well.”
“One of my clients actually is patenting drone-related technology,” he added. “So I’m pretty deeply familiar with how they operate.”
As an undergraduate at the University of Utah, Christensen worked for a time with a patent attorney.
“That’s where I found out about patent law and ... found that I could combine my love for technology with my love for the law,” he said. “It just kind of seemed like a perfect fit.”
Polsinelli associate Ryan P. Davis said Christensen is an amazing lawyer, a very smart guy and very good with clients. And he’s not bad with his drone, according to Davis, who said Christensen’s drone footage is “actually pretty cool.”
“He wants to make sure he follows all the local regulations,” Davis added, “but still wants to make sure he gets the best shot.”
While Christensen is familiar with the drone’s technology, he said there’s still a learning curve involved when it comes to its operation.
“It’s pretty user-friendly, but there’s definitely techniques and ... it requires a steady hand,” he explained. “There’s also a lot of pre-planning. ... You have to know where you’re going, what the local laws are governing drones.”
As time goes on, keeping track of the laws and regulations governing drones has become “more and more onerous.”
“I actually brought the drone with me to Singapore,” Christensen said. “But I was very reluctant to fly it there” due to restrictions.
Christensen has chosen not to visit certain countries because of their drone regulations.
“Some countries will simply ... take your drones,” he said.
While he’s never been in trouble, Christensen has seen other people “hassled by the police.”
“For me it’s been more near misses,” he said.
Still, Christensen said he has been able to use his legal knowledge to work around certain drone restrictions.
“It’s funny because even though I know the law, that doesn’t always mean that the people who are there to enforce the law know the law very well,” he said.
The Polsinelli principal already has a number of trips planned for this year and early 2019.
“I’m going to Norway and then, the beginning of next year, I’m going to Peru,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll let me fly in Machu Picchu.”