Alien invasion... from Bawtry

UFO: The S3i-constructed 'flying saucer' above London's Tower Bridge, during the launch of Microsoft's Halo computer game
UFO: The S3i-constructed 'flying saucer' above London's Tower Bridge, during the launch of Microsoft's Halo computer game
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When alien invaders needed help to fly a UFO over central London they immediately turned to Bawtry-based S3i Stainless Steel Solutions.

The spectacular publicity stunt – staged by software giant Microsoft to promote the latest edition of its blockbuster computer game Halo – required a flying saucer in the shape of the Halo logo to fly along the Thames.

Meanwhile, hundreds of feet below, cybernetic soldiers in futuristic armour stood guard over some of London’s best-known landmarks.

UFOs being the stuff of science fiction, the reality meant suspending a 50 foot wide, circular structure, packed with hi-tech, remote controlled lighting beneath a helicopter – and that’s where S3i came in.

The assembly, designed by London lighting design consultants Cinimod Studio, is said to be the biggest man-made structure ever to be given permission to fly over a capital city.

It was Cinimod that called on S3i to come up with a secure, but lightweight system, capable of suspending the structure below a helicopter.

The Bawtry firm set to work designing a network comprising 48 cables that would be capable of bearing a load of up to six tonnes – double the weight of the structure and only just below the total payload of the helicopter.

S3i’s James Arrowsmith said: “We were absolutely sworn to secrecy until the event had happened.

“It was a challenging, but exciting, thing to do. We’ve been involved in unusual challenges ever since I first started the company. We knew it was do-able, but the cable design was quite technical.

“It had to be made and tested to meet safety requirements, which meant it had to accommodate twice the actual load and we had to get Civil Aviation Authority approval.”

Clients for S3i’s safety critical cables and ancilliary products range from structural engineers, aerospace companies, nuclear power stations and Formula 1 teams to sculptors, landscape gardeners and yachtsmen.

S3i has helped designers to construct gardens at every Chelsea Flower Show since 2007 and has collaborated with sculptor and Olympic cauldron designer Thomas Heatherwick, prize-winning architect and 2012 Olympics Swimming Pool designer Zaha Hadid and award winning garden designer, Jamie Dunstan.

S3i and Cinimod have worked together before on lighting sculptures, but the Halo launch was their most challenging collaboration so far.