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The Orvillecopter is shown here with motors running during its March 9, 2012 flight trials
The artwork is airborne with Arjen Beltman at the controls in this June 3, 2012 photo. Artist Bart Jansen is in the center
Still frame of the video for "The Cat Helicopter Song (Orvillecopter)" by Synapsenkitzler

The Orvillecopter is a work of kinetic art based on the taxidermied remains of a tabby tomcat which were incorporated onto a radio-controlled quadcopter in 2012.

It is named for "Orville" who in turn was named for aviation pioneer Orville Wright; Orville's surviving brother is a black tomcat appropriately named "Wilbur." After Orville was accidently killed by a car, his owner, Dutch artist Bart Jansen collaborated with R/C helicopter pilot Arjen Beltman to create the "half cat, half machine." Jansen explained that Orville had a love of birds and enjoyed chasing them; he therefore thought it fitting to send him among the birds.

Based on the heavy-duty LotusRC T580 quadcopter with upgraded HobbyKing electronics and flown via a Spektrum DX5e transmitter, the Orvillecopter consists of the skin of what was Orville's entire taxidermied body fitted over a custom cast polyester shell which in turn surrounds the entire T580 frame. Only the motors and propellers are exposed and extend past the paws of the skin. The stock landing skids extend from the belly. Access to the receiver, ESCs and inertial measurement unit is via a hinged hatch along the back of the skin; access to the stock battery location is along the belly. The work had "his" first test flight on March 9, 2012. It even has its own Twitter page: @CatCopter.

The Orvillecopter was debuted and exhibited at the 2012 KunstRAI art festival at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre in Amsterdam, Holland.

On July 27, 2013, Jansen and Beltman made the initial test flights of a follow-up piece, the OstrichCopter. This work was created from a farm-raised ostrich which died of natural causes and which the farm agreed to donate to Jansen. The work is considerably larger than the Orvillecopter and may well be one of the largest quadcopters in the world with a flying weight of 46 pounds (21kg).


  • Cologne, Germany-based electro-pop band Synapsenkitzler composed an original song about the Orvillecopter: "The Cat Helicopter Song (Orvillecopter)." The band's YouTube video merges a CGI-animated talking Orville with footage from one of Jansen's videos. A free mp3 download of the song is available via the band's website.
  • Graffiti reading "Kill the animal killers" and "Shame" was written on the RAI Convention Centre. Organizer Liesbeth Hemelrijk defended Jansen to the Los Angeles Times: "Even though artist Bart Jansen loved his cat when it was still alive and cared so much for it that he turned it into art after it was run over by a car, people declare him the worst person in the country."
  • New York-based art critic and blogger Paddy Johnson commented that deceased pets have been used in art before, calling it "sort of a European flavor of art making." For example, Katinka Simonse, a highly controversial Dutch artist known as "TINKEBELL" - who often incorporates dead animals in her art - killed her cat Pinkeltje and made it into a purse.
  • The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the Orvillecopter "a macabre way to honor a beloved family member."
  • Due to the international attention, the Orvillecopter's asking price has been raised from £8,000 or approximately US$12,500 to €100,000, or approximately US$123,770.
  • The Wikipedia article on the Orvillecopter was soon nominated for deletion, subsequently deleted by community consensus and redirected to a brief mention on that site's article on the KunstRAI festival. The Articles for Deletion discussion prompted user "Milowent" to call for the article to be kept and to pen the following poem on the discussion's talk page:

Be thy son of Adam or daughter of Eve
God bestowed upon us the power t'grieve
For dearest furry friends flow tears of brine
And inspiration to create artwork most divine:
The helicopter feline

Struck by a car whilst chasing a rat
Orville's owner vowed to create "half machine, half cat"
Disembowled, stuffed, preserved in formaldehyde
Technology made him one sweet flying ride
(And saved on cremation costs as an aside.)

Alas, Orvillecat may not be a lasting tale
Despite fifty citations in the Daily Mail
(Not to mention eight separate versions in Braille.)

But if we write poems and plays and musical themes,
And perhaps some lolcats and Ceiling Cat cross-memes
Orville, he may, he may yet live on
And we'll google him for centuries a yonder and anon,
And future wikipedians will wonder
Just what drugs we were on.

Technical specifications

  • Frame: LotusRC T580 quadcopter
  • Motors: Stock LotusRC
  • Propellers: Stock LotusRC
  • ESCs: 4x Turnigy Plush 30-amp (catalog number TR_P30A/2164)
  • IMU: HobbyKing Multi-Rotor Control Board V3.0 (Atmega 328 PA; catalog number 9171000011/21977)
  • Battery: Turnigy 2650mAh 4S 40C lithium polymer (catalog number T2650.4S.40/10295)

External links and references