Twitter Facebook Google RSS
National Defense > Blog > Posts > Helicopter Drones Used by Hollywood Now Aimed at Military Buyers
Helicopter Drones Used by Hollywood Now Aimed at Military Buyers
By Valerie Insinna

Colena Ltd. displays it's quadcopter at DSEI.

LONDON — British company Colena Ltd. has sold its unmanned multicopters to shoot footage for television mega-hits such as Game of Thrones and the upcoming James Bond and Star Wars movies. Now, the company is trying to make a name for itself with potential military customers.

Military buyers have largely preferred fixed wing UAVs instead of unmanned rotorcraft that are tougher to maintain and have less endurance. Now it’s time for militaries to give multicopters another chance, said Justin Pringle, Colena’s business development manager.

This is Colena’s first time attending the Defense Systems and Equipment International exhibition, and its officials believe they can provide small multicopters with larger payload capability than those offered by most commercial and defense companies.

“Basically, these are the first heavy-lift systems that can stay in the air for about half an hour,” Pringle said. “A lot of quadcopters and multicopters, they can’t carry much weight. These are designed to carry” around 11 to 33 pounds.

The company currently offers unmanned quadcopters and octocopters with four and eight rotors, respectively. The air vehicle itself costs around $23,000. The octocopter weighs about 16 pounds fully-loaded with a gimbal and batteries. The gimbals provide 360-degree rotation to whatever camera is attached, he said.

The endurance of multicopters, or lack thereof, continue to be the product’s main limitation. Colena’s octocopter can fly for a half hour, but that drops to about 20 minutes if they are fully loaded, Pringle said. As batteries improve, so will endurance, he added.

The quadcopter can fly for up to 60 minutes with a lower payload, according to Colena’s website. The octocopter can keep going even after a rotor failure, because it has seven others to keep it flying, he said.

Colena’s quadcopter on display at DSEI was outfitted with a thermal camera, but the drone can carry multiple payloads. For full-motion video, Pringle said the military should take a closer look at using the same mega high-definition or IMAX cameras used by film crews, which could provide higher resolution imagery.

The response from its military attendees has been good so far, “but it's like anything, it's all potential,” he said. “When it comes to closure, it might take us a week, it might take us six months, but we've met the people that we wanted to meet while we were here."

The aircraft might be best suited to do surveillance in research-and-development or other less risky environments, at least until they are proven to be reliable for military missions, Pringle said.

Colena officials spoke with British Navy personnel about the possibility of powering the rotorcopters through a tether to a ship, which would eliminate the endurance problem and give vessels an additional way to collect intelligence.

“It's like having a magic telescope. [A sailor] can tell it what height to be at, he can have multiple cameras to look forward, back, 360 [degrees around],” Pringle said. “You could untether it and then let it fly off and then come back.”

The company currently is selling about two vehicles a week to the film and television businesses, and it also is expanding its use in other industries, Pringle said. For example, Google contractors are piloting a Colena multicopter equipped with a commercial Red Epic camera to get high-definition footage of Finland’s landscapes.

"Every day they fly … this exact pattern to Google coordinates using Google waypoints,” he said. “They stitch them together, and now they're going to have an IMAX-resolution map of trees in the forest of Finland." 

Photo Credit: Valerie Insinna


There are no comments yet for this post.
Items on this list require content approval. Your submission will not appear in public views until approved by someone with proper rights. More information on content approval.

Name: *

eMail *

Comment *



Name: *

eMail *

Comment *


Please enter the text displayed in the image.
The picture contains 6 characters.

Characters *


Legal Notice *

NDIA is not responsible for screening, policing, editing, or monitoring your or another user's postings and encourages all of its users to use reasonable discretion and caution in evaluating or reviewing any posting. Moreover, and except as provided below with respect to NDIA's right and ability to delete or remove a posting (or any part thereof), NDIA does not endorse, oppose, or edit any opinion or information provided by you or another user and does not make any representation with respect to, nor does it endorse the accuracy, completeness, timeliness, or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement, or other material displayed, uploaded, or distributed by you or any other user. Nevertheless, NDIA reserves the right to delete or take other action with respect to postings (or parts thereof) that NDIA believes in good faith violate this Legal Notice and/or are potentially harmful or unlawful. If you violate this Legal Notice, NDIA may, in its sole discretion, delete the unacceptable content from your posting, remove or delete the posting in its entirety, issue you a warning, and/or terminate your use of the NDIA site. Moreover, it is a policy of NDIA to take appropriate actions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other applicable intellectual property laws. If you become aware of postings that violate these rules regarding acceptable behavior or content, you may contact NDIA at 703.522.1820.



Bookmark and Share