A former RAF pilot who manufacturers unmanned aerial drones is aiming to fly high in new markets after enlisting expert coaching on sales and marketing.
One-time helicopter pilot Nigel King, who flew Gazelle, Puma, Wessex and Sea King helicopters for 16 years in the armed forces, initially created his own UAVs (unmanned airborne vehicles) for use in his former business Blue River Studios, a venture combining his passions for flying and photography.
Now, the camera-equipped UAVs are used all over the globe, to safeguard, enhance and protect the environment, after discussions with environmental firms led to the realisation that the UAVs themselves were highly sought after, prompting King to set up QuestUAV Ltd.
The UAVs take images which are more detailed than those taken from a satellite, and can be stitched together to produce digital aerial maps and 3D models, meaning they can be used for a whole range of environmental, research and humanitarian uses throughout the UK, Europe and indeed the world – and the company is the only manufacturer of this class of equipment in the UK, all of which is designed and manufactured in the Amble technical lab.
Two years after setting up QuestUAV Ltd in Amble, Northumberland, the firm has expanded from an initial workforce of two to a seven-strong team counting the European Space Agency, British Antarctic Survey and many UK universities as their clients.
However, King now has ambitions to substantially grow the forecasted turnover of £333,000 by aiming for new markets, having been given a major boost by several award wins, including the Innovation Award at the Journal’s North East Business Awards 2013.
King turned to Oxford Innovation, the UK’s leading provider of specialist business coaching, which has recently established a base in Ashington from where it delivers the £1.35m Business Northumberland High Growth Programme, offering county businesses support.
Nigel’s brief to Mike Jobson, Oxford Innovation’s programme manager, was to support him and his team in developing a strategy to take QuestUAV’s highly innovative product range into new markets, aiming for increased sales in the commercial and private sector.
“We’ve got an incredibly talented technical team but to grow the business further we need to reach new markets and that has proved to be extremely challenging,” said King. “Mike’s wealth of experience in marketing has been so helpful and his ongoing support is providing us with the commercial focus we were previously lacking.”
Jobson said: “QuestUAV is a remarkable business producing this incredibly sophisticated range of airborne vehicles that are being flown in some of the most remote locations on the planet. The team’s technical expertise is beyond question so my task was to instil a commercial mind-set alongside the scientific and engineering brilliance.
“As well as improving their sales techniques, we’ve also identified some key industrial sectors for QuestUAV to target very directly.”
Oxford Innovation’s methods have proved successful elsewhere in the UK, where the organisation has worked with over 2,500 high growth businesses, helping its clients across the UK access over £100m of funding, creating or safeguarding more than 400 jobs.