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Game of Drones: How This Husband and Wife Team Took Photography to New Heights Elevated Element combines unmanned technology and photography, and sales are soaring.

By Jodi Helmer

This story appears in the February 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Entrepreneurs: Husband-and-wife team Terry and Belinda Kilby traded careers as a software developer and art teacher, respectively, to launch their Owings Mills, Md.-based drone business, Elevated Element, in 2012.

"Aha" moment: Terry, a self-described tinkerer, first retrofitted a remote-control helicopter with a digital camera in 2010. Although the aerial photos were grainy, Belinda recognized the potential for capturing images from vantage points that were once impossible.

Optimal flight path: Creating the ideal drone took time. The original $150 prototype could not reach the desired altitudes or produce professional-grade images, so Terry retreated to his workshop, where he used a CNC (computer numerical control) machine and 3-D printer to experiment. After three years and more than a dozen airframe designs, he came up with the Cygnus quadcopter, a drone that flies up to 400 feet (below occupied airspace and the range in which remote-controlled aircraft are typically flown), capturing high-resolution images and video footage with a GoPro camera mounted to the frame.

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