A High-Flying Business with Roots in Somerville

When Emilie Pickering and Jovan Tanasijevic met at the Boston Architectural College, they never imagined the twists and turns their careers would take. After finishing school during the height of the recession, Pickering and Tanasijevic decided to work together on an art installation project instead of diving right into traditional architecture jobs. They discovered that they loved working together and wanted to find a way to do it full time.

Fate intervened when the Somerville residents came to the rescue of a friend whose wedding photographer didn’t deliver. While Pickering and Tanasijevic weren’t formally schooled in photography, years of pursuing it as a hobby, their training as architects and their shared drive to work hard paid off.

“We dove in headfirst,” Pickering said of the couple’s decision to start Lovely Valentine, a photography and videography studio that specializes in capturing weddings, engagements and other events.

After two years of getting established in the business, Pickering and Tanasijevic got interested in aerial photography and videography. They decided to spin off a separate company, Above Summit, to focus on this new aspect of their work.

Above Summit Balloons:Drone

“We didn’t want to do it as a hobby. We wanted to do this more full time,” Tanasijevic said. So they ordered a drone, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Systems (UAV/UAS), and assembled it. But getting started in this nascent industry hasn’t been easy.

“It didn’t come with any instructions. It took a week to build the first one,” Pickering said of the drone the couple ordered online. And while Tanasijevic built Above Summit’s first UAV/UAS just last year, they couple said that the technology has moved “light years in the last six months.”

Above Summit uses the UAV/UAS to do land surveying with applications in construction, environmental studies and land development, as well as film production for outdoor clients like golf courses and ski mountains, weddings and sporting events.

“It’s a new industry. It’s an exciting industry. It’s uncharted territory,” Tanasijevic said.

Aeronaut Balloon Launch from Above Summit on Vimeo.

A huge part of launching Above Summit has been parsing the Federal Aviation Administration’s and other authorities’ rules on the use of UAV/UAS. So far, the Supreme Court has struck down two attempts by the FAA to regulate the industry. New rules are coming next year and Pickering and Tanasijevic are looking forward to getting clarity on what’s allowed and what isn’t.

While Above Summit hasn’t encountered any issues when flying its UAV/UAS, the company has worked closely with local municipalities and police when using them. But it’s the hobbyists who can pick up a relatively cheap UAV/UAS and operate it incorrectly, potentially injuring someone, that worries Above Summit about how they will be received.

By showing “how we use this we can better facilitate this technology in a safe way,” Tanasijevic said. “We don’t want people to fear them. People can access this without really respecting this as a tool.”

While it may not seem obvious at first, Pickering and Tanasijevic are clearly using their training as architects in their new businesses. Their keen eyes, drive to work hard and passion for projects informs much of their work for Lovely Valentine and Above Summit. And like most entrepreneurs, they’ve learned a lot on the job.

“The takeaway is to always follow your instinct and push hard,” Tanasijevic said.

Brooklyn Boulders – Somerville from Above Summit on Vimeo.

The expansion in their business recently led Pickering and Tanasijevic to move operations out of their Somerville home and into a new office. They found the perfect space on the fourth floor of 343 Medford St., allowing them to keep their business based in the city they love.

“Part of our success is being part of Somerville’s young, start-up culture,” Tanasijevic said.

So far, Pickering and Tanasijevic have linked up with Brooklyn Boulders Somerville, Aeronaut Brewing and US2, the new developers of Union Square, on several projects.

“The more you collaborate, the more you grow together,” Tanasijevic said.

They plan to continue collaborating with local businesses much like their own as Above Summit grows. And they’ve found just the place to do it by rooting their business in Somerville.

“We love Somerville’s culture,” Pickering said. “I like where it’s going with new, young businesses popping up. They are an influence to us. It’s a great little community.”

Images and videos courtesy of Above Summit.

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