The dead cat drone with an eco message | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 28.02.2017
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The dead cat drone with an eco message

When his cat Orville died, Dutch artist Bart Jensen wanted something to remember him by. Soon, the deceased family pet had taken to the skies carrying a message about the absurdity of technological progress.

Bart Jensen has always had a thing for collecting dead animals. So when his beloved cat Orville died after being hit by a car, the Dutch artist decided to immortalize the family pet by turning him into a drone.

"Orville was named after one of the famous flying brothers, Orville Wright - and he loved birds too, and so after he passed on, we decided to make him an aviator again," Jensen says.

"I've been picking up dead animals since I was a kid. All things 'biology' have always interested me. In 2007, I made this book called The Observer's Book of Road kill - a 60-kilo book full of taxidermied animals that smelled really bad! And then someone ran over my cat. I had to do something."

Jensen enlisted the help of his friend, mechanical engineer Arjen Beltman. Together they designed the OrvilleCopter. And that was just the beginning.

A flying menagerie

Bart and Arjen began to seek out other animals they could use for their drone experiments. Which is how a shark, a badger and a rat have all taken to the skies posthumously.

"I built RatCopter for a classmate of my son," says Beltmann. "Unfortunately, his pet rat, Ratjetoe, had cancer. So when he saw Orville flying, he wanted his rat to have a second life as well. So, we made a dream come true."

Jansen then received a phone call from a Dutch ostrich farm.

"There are about nine ostrich farms in Holland, but our climate is not very ostrich-friendly," he explains. "It's wet, cold and clammy, and ostriches really like dry, sandy and African [climates]. I ended up receiving an ostrich, which had just died."

And so, Jansen and Beltmann turned their attention to making one of the world's most renowned flightless birds into a flying machine - the OstrichCopter.

Flying cat

The OstrichCopter turns a flightless bird into a flying machine

"It's a young male, about 2.5 metres in length, with brown and white features and four propellers now stuck out of it," Jensen says.

Technological absurdity

Bart says  his inventions are designed to highlight the absurdity of our race for technical progress and insatiable drive for consumption. 

"Humanity is addicted to new things, to technological progress, but people try to solve problems by inventing a machine that solves the problem for them. But half of these machines make more and more problems.

"The car, for instance, wasn't such a bad idea but now we have to invent things to solve the problems that cars make, so we are stuck in this technological race," Jansen says.

"I put a lot of effort in making something work that no one has any use for. It is really a lot of fun."

The sky's the limit!

Jensen and Beltman now have even more ambitious plans to expand their collection of animal drones and incorporate larger flying creatures.

"I'd like to do a blue whale… but it unfortunately it can't be done - it's too greasy and too large," Jensen says.

"We've been wanting to build a helicopter that could transport us around, so we're looking at creating a flying cow. It's in the tannery right now.”

With the bovine aircraft set to house a human pilot, Jensen says anything is possible for this experimental artistic collaboration.

"I don't know exactly what to call it - if it's not art, I don't know what else it is, because [these drones] don't have any real use. But they do make us think and that's usually what art does, so let's call it art."