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Silver Premier Partner

The sky’s the limit for new Caithness business

Sinclair Aerial Surveys is set to soar to new business heights after launching in April following assistance from Highland Opportunity.

The new business, based in Thurso, uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) to carry out inspections, conduct aerial surveys, produce high resolution maps, and take aerial photography and videos. These services will assist clients ranging from estate agents to golf courses and from wind farms to heritage sites.

Chris Sinclair, Managing Director, explained: “At Sinclair Aerial Surveys Ltd we are excited to have been granted permission from the Civil Aviation Authority to conduct work with our multicopter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.

“There are lots of benefits to this, as opposed to traditional options for aerial survey such as helicopter fly-overs, cranes/ cherry pickers and climbing structures. This approach means our services will be more versatile, more cost effective, quieter, more environmentally friendly, and unintrusive.” 

Chris started the business after having spent seven years working as a Hydrographic Surveyor in the oil and gas industry. After deciding to use his transferrable skills of coordinating offshore surveys to set up his own business, he contacted Highland Opportunity’s local Business Gateway office in Wick.

Jennifer Irvine, Business Gateway Area Business Manager for Caithness, worked closely with Chris – helping him with his business plan, and advising him on both market research and marketing. Chris also attended one of the free local ‘2 Day Start-Up’ workshops from Business Gateway.

Chris said: "Special thanks must go to the Caithness Chamber of Commerce, Business Gateway and Highland Opportunity staff for their support and continuing assistance throughout the start-up phase. Without this, I would never have progressed as quickly as I have, to now be fully operating.

“Assistance to set-up my business came in various forms – both financial and informational, such as advice on marketing, potential clients, markets and employment. From the information obtained, we have started up with one casual worker to assist in all flying tasks.”

Some of the equipment required to conduct aerial surveys had already been purchased personally by Chris, and the business had received an initial grant from Caithness Regeneration Fund. A second UAV and new camera were required in order to provide a very high quality service with high resolution photography, however.

To fund this investment, Chris turned to Highland Opportunity – the Enterprise Trust for the Highlands, which provides accessible and flexible loan funds for small and medium Highland businesses.

Robin Jackson, Highland Opportunity Investment Manager, said: “I worked with Chris to ascertain his funding needs and options. Whilst his business is a start-up, it is clear that there is a market for this business and that the business plan Chris developed with Jennifer is robust with realistic projections and future developments.

“The company should also have wider benefits for the region as the services provided will give clients a range of financial, operational and environmental benefits compared to current options for aerial survey; and as Chris is also committed to providing employment opportunities in the northern Highlands. This, coupled with Chris’ extensive survey experience and willingness to learn, meant that we were very pleased to award Sinclair Aerial Surveys a Highland Opportunity loan.”

With the new equipment now purchased, and a license from the UK Civil Aviation Authority, Sinclair Aerial Surveys is now offering individuals and businesses across the Highlands three main services.

High resolution aerial photography and video can be used for everything from the selling of private homes, to promotion for hotels and golf courses, investigating historic sites, monitoring wind farms and much more.

Inspection services will allow clients to check difficult to reach areas of private and commercial properties, such as rooftops, gutterings, solar panels, chimney stacks and masts.

The mapping and survey services will enable clients such as estates, farms, forestry commissions and housing associations to develop high resolution 3D maps with full GPS referencing.

Sinclair Aerial Surveys is already planning for the future and looking to spread its business wings further – including one day branching into different sectors such as renewables and sports events. Chris will receive aftercare loan support from Highland Opportunity’s Investment Manager and continued assistance from Highland Opportunity’s Business Gateway Advisers and Recruitment Advisers to assist him as his business develops.

Chris will soon begin working with April Conroy, an Adviser on the Business Growth Programme delivered by Business Gateway and Highland Opportunity. She specialises in assisting businesses to win public contracts to provide services to the public sector. The public sector in Scotland alone procures billions of pounds of goods and services from commercial businesses every year.

Chris added: “Our goal is to provide high quality products to all clients, gain a loyal customer base and provide growing employment within Caithness and Sutherland, and it helps to know these organisations are always on hand to give advice at any time in the road to achieving these goals."

For more information on Sinclair Aerial Surveys, see www.sinclairaerialsurveys.com

For more information on Highland Opportunity’s accessible business finance and advice services, see www.highland-opportunity.com, or contact 01463 228340 or info@highland-opportunity.com