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Top filmmakers back C-Prize

Unleashing future flying tech on screen sector

This article was published on 6 May 2015

The support of top international filmmakers for a Callaghan Innovation-led competition aimed at developing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology for the screen sector shows there is strong industry appetite for the initiative, Callaghan Innovation Chief Executive Dr Mary Quin said today.

Today saw the official launch of the C-Prize, an open innovation challenge run by Callaghan Innovation, the government’s business innovation agency. With a grand prize of $50,000, the chance to exhibit at a leading international trade show, and bonus prizes including the latest in UAV equipment, the C-Prize is encouraging Kiwi innovators to develop their own cutting-edge UAV technology to solve technical challenges and opportunities set by New Zealand film industry leaders.

“Internationally, filmmakers are increasingly looking to use unmanned aircraft to help them tell their stories in innovative new ways,” Dr Quin says. “These include Avatar director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau, who have both expressed excitement at what the C-Prize will do to help this emerging sector and the screen industry innovate. Their public support shows there is great industry support and major opportunities for Kiwi innovators and entrepreneurs seeking to commercialise world-leading UAV technology.”

James Cameron, whose blockbuster films include Avatar - filmed in New Zealand – said the C-Prize was a great opportunity to improve UAV technology for use in the film industry. “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.”

Avatar producer Jon Landau said New Zealanders’ innovative nature and passion for filmmaking made this country the right place to launch such an initiative. “I can’t think of a better place to launch this technology challenge.”

Dr Quin said the C-Prize was an example of Callaghan Innovation’s focus on bringing together companies, entrepreneurs, future innovators and research organisations - in this instance to help New Zealand businesses succeed, in what is a rapidly expanding area of technology worldwide.

Combined with Callaghan Innovation’s existing support for our growing UAV sector as well as the backing of key industry figures such as James Cameron, the C-Prize is set to stimulate continued development of the UAV sector, commercialise high value technology products bred in New Zealand and stimulate a new generation of hi-tech entrepreneurs.

Callaghan Innovation’s additional support for the Kiwi UAV sector has included the establishment of the UAVNZ industry association, input on future civil aviation regulations, hosting a national UAV industry conference, and commissioning a report on the economic benefits of UAV technology.