Eye in the sky: student pilots remote control helicopter with video capabilities

Issue date: 22 May 2014

(L-R) Craig Hellen and Tom Zandt-Valentine in a field with a remote controlled helicopter

A Gloucester video and motion graphics company has taken on a UWE Bristol student to pilot a new multi-rotor video helicopter.

The Bexcopter is a lightweight six-rotor helicopter, capable of carrying a video camera underneath it's frame, and can be used to capture stunning aerial footage of landscapes and properties.

Owned by Bexmedia, which is based in Gloucester, the device will be flown by Tom Zandt-Valentine, an Audio and Music Technology student at UWE Bristol, who has been taken on by managing director Craig Hellen.

Tom has been flying model helicopters since the age of 15 and is currently working for Bexmedia full-time during a placement year, before he returns to UWE Bristol to complete his studies.

Tom said, “During my early teenage years I was very interested in flying remote control planes and helicopters and it quickly became a hobby of mine. After a number of crashes, broken parts and a few years of experience I was able to do 3D aerobatics and comfortably control a helicopter in all orientations, including hovering upside down one foot off the ground.

“The Bexcopter business started when the idea of combining my expertise in remote control aircraft and the camera knowledge of bexmedia were put together to create Bexcopter.

“Although my course at UWE Bristol is not immediately connected to my interest in piloting model aircraft, it has definitely helped me to get where I am today. As part of programme I was allowed to pick modules that were of specific interest to me, such as Introduction to the Web and Media, Business and Publishing, which was great, as both have been very useful in helping to start up a business.”

Craig Hellen, Managing Director of Bexmedia, said, “We have two helicopters we use – a smaller version and a larger one. They have been a significant investment but the market is strong, and constantly growing. The stumbling block for us is often convincing people of what it can do. The results really are stunning and it's a matter of opening people's eyes to its potential.”

Preparation for launching the Bexcopter commercially has seen Tom writing a 40-page operations manual to pass Civil Aviation Authority licensing tests which govern the device's commercial use. It makes Bexmedia one of only 200 licensees nationwide who are registered to operate similar multi-rotored video devices for business purposes.

Craig continued, “I enjoy giving youngsters like Tom an opportunity to get into the workplace and it's a great way to recruit talent. His expertise and skill in this area has been paramount to the continuing success of the Bexcopter.”

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