Congratulations Team VorTech,
winners of the 2015 Callaghan Innovation C-Prize!

Watch the competition video.

The New Zealand screen industry’s reputation for cutting-edge filmmaking is acclaimed worldwide. Combined with our open airspace, and progressive regulations, New Zealand is the perfect location for innovators and entrepreneurs to commercialise world leading UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology for the film, media, and gaming industries.

New Zealand innovators and entrepreneurs have been invited to bring the local screen industry to a new height by creating the next generation of UAV technology.

  • The Grand-Prize winner will receive NZ$50,000 cash prize, an expenses-paid trip to exhibit at the 2016 NAB trade show in Las Vegas, and wide market exposure supported by Callaghan Innovation and NZTE!
  • Up to six finalists will receive NZ$10,000 in cash to develop prototypes of their ideas.
  • An Aeronavics BOT (including a GoPro camera, gimbal, wireless video down link, mission controller and transport case) will be presented to the student entry which displays the highest degree of innovation.

I am a huge fan of new technologies. I am starting to really like drones as camera platforms. Any improvements that can be made to make them more stable and quieter would enable them to be used for a wider variety of world class shots. This is what excites me about the C-prize; teams can develop technology to reduce noise, increase stability and track filming subjects. I look forward to seeing what people come up with.

James Cameron – Filmmaker


We brought Avatar to New Zealand for the technology but stayed for the people. Everyone in New Zealand is so innovative, but also so passionate about filmmaking – I can’t think of a better place to launch this technology challenge.

Jon Landau – Executive Producer

Grand Prize Winner

VorTech (Track 2) Marangai Most modern UAV designs are limited by the fact they must pitch and roll in order to move laterally. Rotating a motor with a spinning prop also leads to precession effects, making it difficult for a UAV to maintain a position in high winds. VorTech have created a cutting edge propeller, inspired by academic research into the future of wind turbines. This propeller, when attached to a single electric motor and two servos, can provide a 360° thrust vector. Four of these propellers provide 6-axis motion control without changing the attitude of the UAV, allowing excellent resistance to external forces. The VorTech prop is also more aerodynamically efficient, improving flight times and maximum loads. Allied to a high performance sensor system, including a LIDAR altimeter and GPS with carrier wave detection (giving centimetre-level position accuracy), the VorTech propeller will allow class-leading position holding in high winds.


The UFO Eagle Eye Butler Robotics submits their unique UFO concept for the Callaghan Innovation C-PRIZE competition. The UFO is a twin propeller UAV with powerful on board object tracking capabilities designed to meet the challenges of the Film and Television industry. With its symmetrical and balanced form factor the UFO offers exciting new flight characteristics. Its intelligent object tracking system not only aims to deliver on precision but to do so with a quality of motion so that footage can be used for production. By using marker-less positioning technology the UFO opens up a broader range of possibilities allowing for freedom and creativity. All while making it easy to operate. Its simple UFO like design gives it a distinct look that will make it highly recognisable amongst other UAVs. We believe the UFO has the potential to be a strong competitor in the market place as well as at the C-PRIZE UAV challenge.
Ruru UAV Purerehua The Ruru (Morepork) is capable of near-silent flight and also has a highly developed auditory system which allows it to track its prey whilst hunting at night. Similarly, the Ruru UAV will also produce a minimum level of noise and will be equipped with technologies which will allow the recording of high-quality spoken audio which has minimal contamination from unwanted background noise sources. This project will utilise the world-class expertise and facilities within the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Auckland.
Dotterel NRS Purerehua The Dotterel suite of technologies focuses on passive noise reduction from the loudest mechanical parts of UAV’s with complimentary on board active noise cancellation technology. Real-time wireless audio and video transmission is used to relay processed feeds to the ground. Dotterel NRS can be implemented at low cost on existing UAV’s when reduced noise level is required. .
Kestrel Marangai Kestrel is designed to sense the environment it is in with a fusion of multiple sensors and react accordingly to maintain its desired position......
Horizon - Thinking Laterally Marangai Horizon is a multi-faceted design, produced by an experienced team based at the University of Auckland, consisting of engineering students and UAV enthusiasts. A pioneering frame design, with careful manipulation of motor torque, gives the added value of improved direct lateral control and sensitivity. The craft then has a rapid response and is less susceptible to disturbances. Unique aerodynamic design features provide supplementary passive disturbance rejection. The UAV is dynamically controlled using creative sensing, including a fusion of vision and GPS based methods to maintain position. This information is augmented with real time wind data which characterises bulk fluctuations and disturbances. Our design drastically improves UAV stability, a basic stumbling block to usable shooting. Given this, Horizon will produce quality film sequences and be highly competitive in the C-Prize Marangai challenge.
Vecta16 - Bonus Prize Winner Marangai The Vecta16 multi-rotor provides a mechanical solution to one of the biggest problems facing mobile videography, operating in adverse wind conditions. It uses sixteen variable pitch rotors to create a thrust vectoring system that allows the craft to provide up to two thirds it’s maximum thrust in any direction. This provides the Vecta16 with the unique ability to maintain a “true” locked three-dimensional location regardless of surrounding conditions. The ability to provide thrust in any 3D direction means the craft can instantly counteract wind and turbulent air. The Vecta16 is not required to tilt during forward’s flight and therefore can fly at high top speeds while being perfectly level.
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