Elevated Aspects is a new business, but its owners – Andrew and Samantha Leonard – have a successful commercial track record. Before moving to Portadown, the Leonards ran a small firm – ‘Balloon in a Box’ – in Manchester.
But some businesses only work in certain locations. Balloon in a Box customers ordered pre-inflated balloons for delivery on special occasions, often birthdays. However, the helium-filled balloons often burst if sent by air. The operation could not work for a firm based in Northern Ireland sending balloons by air mail to Great Britain.
The Leonards looked for a different type of commercial operation to run from Portadown. They settled on one where Andrew had relevant expertise, as both a qualified surveyor and keen photographer – they now provide aerial photographs, operating as Elevated Aspects.
Although other firms in Northern Ireland also sell aerial photographs, Elevated Aspects has developed a market niche. Research by the Leonards established that there are legal constraints on taking photos from a plane – the planes need to be certified to do the job. Only one plane and one helicopter in Northern Ireland are certified.
Elevated Aspects takes its aerial photographs from a Land Rover, with a camera attached to a mast that rises 85 feet above ground. Their service is therefore lower cost: their charge per day is equivalent to the charge for an hour with some competitors.
Not only can Elevated Aspects offer a service that is cheaper, it is also more flexible. Clients can sit at their office desk and view real time pictures and decide whether that is the perspective they want, or whether they prefer a slightly different image.
“A plane may only circle the property for 10 minutes,” explains Andrew. “We can spend an hour getting the best angle. With our system, the client can see exactly what they are getting and get exactly what they want.”
The service also has the benefit of providing more context, with the photos including the background of the local area, rather than the photos of rooves that characterise plane-based aerial photography.
But having a clear market niche and a strong idea of where they wanted to go was not enough. The Leonards launched Elevated Aspects in 2007 intending to take advantage of Northern Ireland’s property boom. But as the boom turned to bust, it was clear the focus had to shift to other sectors.
Instead of helping estate agents to sell properties, they are now assisting operators of tourism and leisure facilities to market their attractions. One client is the Tandragee Golf Club, which now has hole-by-hole aerial photos of its course on its website as part of a campaign to attract golfing tourists.
Elevated Aspects is also still in the property market. “Even though there appears to be little building work going on, there is a lot of work in the background with developers getting planning permission in place, so when the market does peak they are ready to offload their properties,” explains Andrew. “So we have done work for planning purposes, putting the mast up and getting 360 ° panoramas and line of sight surveys.”
Although Elevated Aspects may not have achieved the lift-off its owners initially expected, it is still riding high.