Colossus veteran flies a drone over Bletchley Park

No reports of bandits in the area, fortunately

An operator of Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, returned to her wartime workplace to fly a drone this week.

Joanna Chorley, 89, returned to Block H at Bletchley Park to operate the drone quadcopter. The drone’s on-board camera provided an aerial view of the home of Colossus and the rest of Bletchley Park.

Chorley commented enthusiastically: “I haven’t had so much fun in years. I loved every single moment operating the drone and my mind was racing, thinking of all the applications that the technology could be put to.”

Flying at up to its legal speed limit of 50mph, and at a height of 50-100 metres, the DJI Inspire quadcopter drone flew over Block H and nearby parts of Bletchley Park. The 3kg craft – which comes outfitted with an on-board gyro-stabilised camera – offers 18 minutes of battery-powered flying time.

Ben Huss-Smickler, managing director of flight services firm Sohus and a CAA-qualified pilot, added: “Joanna showed terrific hand-eye co-ordination and was very adept at controlling the drone. Our co-piloting was hardly necessary.”

A rough-cut of the drone video footage is now available on YouTube below [Warning: Rinky-dink musical accompaniment may grate on some].

The drone flying exercise was one of a number of events to take place during the Summer Bytes Festival at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park this week. The festival (diary here) runs until the end of the month. Next Saturday (22 August) will mark a special visit by K9 from Doctor Who, the Orac computer from Blake’s 7 and more, courtesy of special effects maestro, Mat Irvine.

Drone flying over Bletchley Park took place around the same time that Spitfire and Hurricane planes flew over the South of England to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the fiercest day of fighting during World War II. ®


Colossus (not to be confused with Colloson) helped to break secret Lorenz/Tunny messages sent by German High Command during World War II. A rebuilt Colossus is one of the main attractions at the National Museum of Computing. Flights buffs may ne interested in checking out a NATS Air Traffic Control Gallery which recently opened at the museum.

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