Fraser Valley entrepreneur launches aerial photography business
Sky-Hi News Contributor
WINTER PARK — After teaching skiing for a decade, it is no surprise that local entrepreneur Brian Tripp didn’t last long at a desk job.
“I left here about four or five years ago and got a degree in graphic design, and I really liked it. But after about a year in the office, I realized that’s not for me,” he said.
So the North Carolina native combined his love of the outdoors with his education to start a unique new business in the Fraser Valley. Altitude Aerial Imaging LLC uses a quadcopter with an integrated digital camera to capture images and video from up to 400 feet in the air. Tripp controls the whole operation with his smart phone.
The idea for the business originated back in North Carolina.
“I didn’t know anything about it, actually,” Tripp said.
Then his friend posted some aerial photos online that grabbed Tripp’s attention. The photos were obviously taken from the air, but Tripp couldn’t figure out how they had been captured. So he called the friend to ask how he did it.
That was his introduction to quadcopters, named so because of the four small propellers used to lift and steer the lightweight craft.
“Using a quadcopter you can get a vantage point you wouldn’t be able to get with anything else, even a helicopter, because a helicopter can only get so close to something before it blows it away. And a boom is stationary,” Tripp said.
It took Tripp a couple of weeks — and a few crashes — to accurately fly and film simultaneously. The quadcopter is small enough and can be navigated close to objects like roofs, tree tops, events, or even skiers or other athletes.
“The possibilities are pretty much limitless with what you can do with it,” said Tripp. “You can do anything from sporting events to flying it above an athlete — whether they are on bikes, skis, running — anything like that. You can get them fore and aft and above with one camera.”
The quadcopter is totally wireless and takes full HD 1080 video, as well as still images.
One of Tripp’s first clients was The Roofing Company based in Granby. Tripp shoots roofs in need of repair for estimates, plus completed projects which can be hard to appreciate from the ground.
“Their work looks spectacular when you see it from above,” Tripp said.
“The quality of the photography and video is very high,” said Larry Murdoch, safety manager at The Roofing Company. “We’ve used it on our website and marketing materials. We found it very valuable right off the bat.”
Building a business
Like any new businessperson, Tripp had to learn about the nuts and bolts of having a small business in Colorado, such as proper licensing and insurance.
But he has the additional challenge of being on the forefront of a new technology.
“I feel like I am introducing a brand new business to people because this is just starting right now. We’re on basically the ground level of this industry,” Tripp said.
Even though Tripp had years of experience working with people, teaching skiing is a far cry from making sales pitches.
“You think everybody is going to see it and love it and want it, but just like anything else, you’ve got to sell it,” he said.
Privacy and Safety
Tripp also faces misconceptions about the quadcopter. As they grow in popularity, incidents of drone-like devices sighted near commercial airspace are on the rise. Regulatory agencies like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are scrambling to catch up with laws and regulations.
Tripp prefers not to use the “D word.”
“Everybody says drone now, but I try to make the distinction between them. This is a flying camera. Drones are for spying. This is a flying camera,” he said. “People have been flying model airplanes for decades and no one ever called them drones.”
Although he has been well-received so far, Tripp uses the quadcopter respectfully and legally. Permission is granted for the sites he photographs, or he works in the public domain. The quadcopter is also programmed to avoid restricted airspace, which is usually near airports.
“Basically, I’m not a numbskull,” he said.
He’s also never in a cubicle. Much of the footage Tripp takes on his own time is the natural beauty of the mountains. One of his videos crosses the historic train trestle on Rollins Pass.
“It’s very seldom you get to go above some of the land features that we have here, like the trestle and the trees and everything like that. You don’t get to see it. The stuff I take for pleasure is to give people access to vistas they’ve never seen before.”
To see more examples of the images, find Altitude Aerial Imaging on facebook and twitter. Image and video packages start at $200.
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If you live in Grand County, chances are you love being outside. There are endless recreational activities, many likely a stone’s throw from where you’re standing. Whether it’s skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking or simply walking…