Genius NY, a central New York State based business accelerator funded by corporate sponsors and Empire State Development, the state’s principal economic development agency, announced on December 13 the five finalists for its 2019 Round Three competition. The early-stage businesses, chosen in November from a shortlist of 15 firms out of a pool of 350 c-drone startups worldwide who applied, will take up residence in January at CenterState CEO‘s Tech Garden in the city of Syracuse for the yearlong program. In April, the companies will pitch to a panel of judges, competing for $3 million in direct investment. The winning startup will receive $1 million and the other finalists a $500,000 award each. The companies give up 6% equity to participate and are encouraged to put down roots and create jobs in New York. Genius NY assists the finalist companies in developing business plans and provides incubator space, company stipends, and other resources. At the end of the one-year cycle, Genius NY organises an investors meeting in New York City. Last year, six finalists shared the $3 million in awards. Two months ago, shortly before being re-elected to a third term, Andrew M. Cuomo, the governor of New York State, announced funding for the program through 2021.
Three of the finalists are from New York State, while the other two are from Israel and Italy. The finalists are:
- EagleHawk (Buffalo, NY): Founded in 2016, EagleHawk provides efficient commercial roof inspection services at sites around the United States, and to date has inspected over 500 buildings and 11 million square-feet (1 million square meters) of rooftop using GIS (Geographic Information System) technologies. Client reports allow preventive maintenance and substantial savings.
- Vermeer (Brooklyn, NY): Founded by the team that created Aerobo three years ago, Vermeer is developing an augmented reality drone application which enables filmmakers to “fly the camera, not the drone” over a 5×5 ft (1.5 x 1.5m) virtual model of a site which is then uploaded to the drone controller for autonomous flight. The startup launched the public beta of their AR-enabled drone flight iOS app a month ago, with the goal of simplifying flight plans for real estate, construction, infrastructure inspections, and insurance adjusting.
- Civdrone (Israel): Founded this year, Civdrone adds a device payload to commercially available drones to automate construction site land surveying and physical marking, more quickly and cheaply than human teams. The drone lands at each point and inserts marker stakes which can be tagged with QR codes, enabling an onsite construction team to access precise data and up-to-the-minute instructions about each location.
- Sentient Blue (Italy): Founded a year ago by engineers who have worked with major aerospace groups and fast-development Formula 1 motorsport components, Sentient Blue tackles the problem of the short flight times of today’s drones with micro gas turbine based powerplant designs which will enable extended power and endurance for search & rescue, medical delivery, and other drone applications.
- ResilienX (Syracuse, NY): Founded this year, ResilienX aims to bring fault tolerance to emerging U-space or Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management (UTM) by automating fault detection and contingency management in a software suite called FRAIHMWORK. This “piece of the puzzle” will be vital for public safety and confidence in routine autonomous drone flights.
Genius NY is a key player in the c-drone ecosystem of central New York, which includes the NUAIR (Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research) Alliance, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designated UAS Test Site at Griffiss International Airport, and the 50 mile (80km) UTM/BVLOS (Unmanned Aircraft System Traffic Management/Beyond Visual Line Of Sight) air corridor under development first announced by Governor Cuomo two years ago. Companies involved in testing include Thales, AirMap, UniFly, GE unit AiRXOS [PDF], Fortem Technologies, and others.
Previous finalists and winners of the Genius NY competitions have received further rounds of investment, received FAA waivers for advanced flight testing, launched new products, and been acquired by other companies. Fotokite, last year’s grand prize winner from Switzerland, is currently filling positions in the Syracuse area. See our interview with Chris McCall of Fotokite.