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Orvillecopter, also known as “Helicopter Cat,” is a remote-controlled quadcopter resembling a flying cat created by Dutch artist Bart Jansen. Since its public debut on YouTube in March 2012, the “half-cat, half-machine” flying device has been met with both praise and criticism online.
According to the artist’s project description, Jansen decided to build Orvillecopter in tribute to his deceased house cat Orville whom he named after the famous aviator Orville Wright. The device was created with a remote-controlled quadrotor, propellers and the cat’s taxidermied skin with the technical assistance of RC hobbyist Arjen Beltman. According to the EFlightWiki, the design is based on the heavy-duty LotusRC T580 quadcopter, which was upgraded with HobbyKing electronics and flown with a Spektrum DX5e transmitter. Orville’s skin is fitted around a polyester shell on top of the T580 frame. On March 12th, 2012, Jansen uploaded a video titled “Orvillecopter first flight,” which featured footage of the helicopter’s first test run (shown below). Within 10 months, the video received over two million views and 4,000 comments.
On January 30th, 2012, a promotional video for the 2012 science fiction film Chronicle titled “Flying People in New York City” was uploaded to YouTube, which featured remote-controlled planes shapes to resemble humans flying across New York City (shown below). Within one year, the video received over 8.37 million views and 8,000 comments.
On March 12th, 2012, Redditor Cajun submitted the video to the /r/videos subreddit, where it was subsequently picked up by the tech news blog Gizmodo. On May 24th, the PowNesTelevisie YouTube channel uploaded a news report about the Orvillecopter, showing the quadcopter flying over a field into a group of cows (shown below). On June 3rd, Redditor Kidsturk submitted the video to the /r/engineering subreddit, where it received more than 100 up votes and 30 comments prior to being archived.
The same day, The Daily Mail published an interview with Jansen, quoting him saying that Orville “loved birds” and would “soon be flying with the birds.” On June 4th, Jansen uploaded a YouTube video titled “Orvillecopter Final Test,” which featured footage of the helicopter flying in a backyard (shown below). Within seven months, the video accumulated over 1.97 million views and 4,000 comments.
The same day, The Telegraph published an article titled “Dutch artist turns dead cat Orville into the Orvillecopter,” which reported that after Jansen’s cat was hit by a car, he enlisted the help of radio control helicopter enthusiast Arjen Beltman to turn the cat into a helicopter. Also on June 4th, the @Orvillecopter Twitter account was created and Yahoo News published an article featuring tweets using the hashtag #Orvillecopter.
All this rain is bad for my fur and wiring. Maybe I’ll fly to Curaçao.
— Orvillecopter (@orvillecopter) July 13, 2012
On June 5th, NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast a segment titled “Artist Takes Taxidermy to New Heights,” reporting that Jansen’s helicopter cat could be viewed flying at an art exhibit in Amsterdam.
The use of the taxidermied cat skin has also sparked the ire of many animal rights activists and online commenters. On June 4th, 2012, NBC News published an article titled “Dead Cat Copter: Art or ‘macabre’ pet send off?”, which quoted the People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) saying, “It’s a macabre way to honor a beloved family member.” The same day, News.com.au published an article titled “Meet Orville: The flying, dead, stuffed, cat,” which referred to the story as “just so wrong.” On the following day, the LA Times published an article reporting that animal rights activists wrote “Kill the animal killers” and “Shame” outside of the convention center where the helicopter had debuted. On June 6th, the Internet news blog BoingBoing published a post reporting on the negative online reaction to the Orvillecopter.
Several YouTubers responded to the helicopter creation by making parody and remix videos featuring the Orvillecopter.
The Daily Mail – Cats away! Artist turns his dead pet into a helicopter