Major investment leaves North Shields firm flying high

A North East drone specialist is scaling new heights after heavily investing in its own manufacturing facility.

Ross Embleton, custom integration specialist at heliguy, alongside Carl Gregg, product and process design specialist at the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project.
Ross Embleton, custom integration specialist at heliguy, alongside Carl Gregg, product and process design specialist at the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project.

heliguy, based in North Shields, started life selling remote-controlled helicopters in 2006 but has since grown into a full-service drone specialist, providing drones, bespoke accessories, servicing, repairs, custom integrations, product development, drone pilot training and end-to-end workflow support.

Over the past two years, the company has secured contracts with 38 police forces across the country, as well as the London Fire Brigade, Port of Tyne and a host of personal and commercial clients.

The expansion – and the establishing of a dedicated manufacturing hub at its Orion Business Park base – has seen the company increase its staffing levels to 28 employees.

Ross Embleton, custom integration specialist at heliguy, said: “We identified a gap in the market – quite early on – when the drone market was just maturing and swiftly established ourselves as one of the UK’s leading independent providers of drones and accessories.

“Since then, we’ve continued to invest in the business year-on-year, ensuring we continue to service our clients to the highest possible standard and continuing to create job opportunities for local people.”

Central to bringing product development and manufacturing in-house and growing the business has been a suite of state-of-the-art 3D printers that has allowed heliguy to design and produce parts at its North Shields facility, helping to slash lead and prototype times while reducing costs.

The company purchased the printers after receiving technical support and a grant from the £10.9million Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project, a collaboration between European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), University of Sunderland, the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and Industry.

The firm also purchased a Form 3L SLA 3D printer in November and aims to acquire a number of surface finishing machines over the coming months as it continues to invest in its design and manufacturing capabilities.

Ross added: “Bringing the production of our components in-house was key to us broadening our horizons and expanding into new markets and the support we received from SAM has been key to helping us do that.

“It has massively reduced design times too. Now, if the managing director or a client has an idea, we can create a physical, working prototype within a week as there’s no waiting around for third party suppliers.”