open this image in new window: C-Prize

In April 2015, having spotted an opportunity to further boost New Zealand’s position as a leading developer of unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, or drones, Callaghan Innovation launched its first C-Prize competition.

The competition invited New Zealand students, innovators and entrepreneurs to develop UAV technology for the screen industry, with challenges set in three specific areas: reducing UAV noise (the Pūrerehua challenge), increasing stability in high winds (the Marangai challenge) and improving automated object tracking (the Eagle Eye challenge).

Eighty entrants submitted initial concepts, which were judged by a panel of film and technology experts. Callaghan Innovation supported the six finalists with expert advice and coaching to build and test their prototypes, and in December 2016 Vortec UAV, a group of former University of Auckland students, was announced the winner of the inaugural C-Prize.

In April 2016, just a year after the C-Prize launched, Vortec UAV and C-Prize finalist Dotterel Technologies took their drone prototypes to the 2016 National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas.

We were able to get in front of essentially every major UAV company in the cinematography industry.

Matthew Rowe, Dotterel Technologies

The NAB show is by far the largest media, broadcast and technology trade and consumer show in the world, with more than 100,000 people descending on Las Vegas each year to attend the week-long show.

Callaghan Innovation sponsored a New Zealand UAV Technology Pavilion within the broader NAB Aerial Robotics and Drone Pavilion, and UAV technology was a hot topic at NAB 2016. Vortec’s thrust-vectoring technology was well received by NAB attendees, and the sales team made some excellent connections with major drone manufacturers as they progress their product towards commercialisation. Dotterel found themselves in the enviable position of being a true niche product, as the only company offering noise-cancellation systems for UAVs. The company received some incredible media and market interest, including being deemed “most innovative product” by industry publication  Newsshooter.com – a phenomenal accolade for the New Zealand start-up considering the range of products on display.

Matthew Rowe of Dotterel says that being part of the New Zealand pavilion was significant for the young company. “We were able to get in front of essentially every major UAV company in the cinematography industry, and have one-on-one conversations with key senior staff at those companies. We also received a great deal of feedback from show attendees that the New Zealand booth was simply amazing; the Callaghan Innovation team did an outstanding job of establishing the New Zealand presence on the world stage.”

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Updated: 25 July 2017