- By Mike Kelly
There aren’t many firms that would admit to being a fly-by-night company, but Heliguy is one such organisation.
And fly-by-day for that matter for the North East business has seen is unmanned camera drones used across the globe.
The North Shields company’s Drone Manager, Justin Pringle, explained: “Our film and broadcast rigs are all over the world. We can have Kirsty Allsop one day, and Michael Caine the next under our filming drones.
“Game of Thrones, and the new Star Wars VII are our jewels in the crown, with Bollywood now just starting to get their studios using our airborne cameras.
“We have sold platforms to the BBC for news coverage and to explorers and geologists heading off to Antarctic.”
The rigs – made up of cameras fixed on remote controlled ‘quadcopter’ craft which range in price from just £150 to several thousands – are used by amateurs and professionals alike.
In September they were even used in an ‘art installation’ performance by musician John Cale, founder member of the 1960s group Velvet Underground.
Justin explained Cale got interested because the word drone had bad connotations with their military use.
In an interview before the event Cale said: “They are sinister things, that’s what they are used for. I want to use them to create an installation of art.”
And with the help of ‘speculative architect’ and ‘storyteller’ Liam Young, as well as a team including staff from Heliguy who piloted the drones, that’s just what he did.
Using a number of rigs manufactured by the North East company’s partners, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) manufactures, DJI Innovations, they flew over the heads of the audience as Cale played.
There’s also a burgeoning domestic market for the cameras too, as shown at an event Heliguy staged at Kingston Park, home of the Newcastle Falcons rugby union club.
Around 60 people attended a free Drone Pilot Training Program, the first of a series to be staged nationwide over the coming months being run jointly by Heliguy and DJI Innovations.
Technical build specialist Matt Cross said: “It starts at the hobbyist level with action filming like skiing and cycling.
“Then the technology gets bigger and better which is used by professional cameramen in TV and film.”
Farmers have used Heliguy’s ‘quadcopters’ to manage drainage, crops and irrigation.
Matt added: “They can be used for surveilling the propellers, both onshore and offshore, of wind turbines which is obviously a lot safer than sending someone up there.
“It’s bringing a bird’s eye vision to life that as human beings stuck on the ground we can’t normally see.”
Heliguy started in Alnwick seven years ago, originally importing and selling toy helicopters. It is only recently they began specialising in building drones for the film and TV industry.
The business moved down to North Shields in 2013, and now employs ten.
Justin: “The drone industry is anticipated to be worth $14 trillion worldwide within 10 years, and we are already stealing a lead on our worldwide competitors.
“Working with other local companies we also aim to build a North East drone business network and sight the region ultimately as the heart of the UK drone industry.”