The Sentient Blue team celebrates their grand prize win of $1 million investment in Syracuse, New York. Image: CenterState CEO

US: Genius NY competition $1M grand prize goes to Italy’s Sentient Blue


Genius NY, a business accelerator organization based in central New York State funded by Empire State Development, has held its third annual awards event in Syracuse, awarding first prize of $1 million (€890,000) to Sentient Blue, a startup from Italy. Four other prizes of $500,000 each were also distributed to four finalists.

The winners are:

  • Sentient Blue (Parma, Italy) — environmentally friendly micro gas turbine-based power plants for long endurance c-drones
  • Vermeer (Brooklyn, NY) — augmented-reality drone piloting solution, for preparing autonomous real-world flights in a 3D virtual environment
  • ResilienX (Syracuse, NY) — software to increase the resilience and reduce the maintenance costs of c-drones through system monitoring
  • CivDrone (Israel) — fast, reliable and autonomous marking solutions for the construction industry, automating land surveying
  • EagleHawk (Buffalo, NY) — preventive maintenance platform for flat-roof commercial buildings, using c-drone mounted infrared sensors to detect leaks

Over 350 startups worldwide applied for the Round Three competition; 15 semifinalists were shortlisted by Genius NY in mid-November, and the five finalists were selected last December.

Sentient Blue Technologies SRL was founded in Parma, Italy in November 2017 and says it is a “different kind of aerospace company”, prioritizing reduced environmental impact while seeking high performance. The founder-CEO-CTO, Saïf-Deen Akanni, has previously worked in aerospace and automotive engineering, notably for the Ferrari Formula 1 racecar team. Following the awards ceremony, he said:

We at Sentient Blue are honored to have been selected as the winner of Genius NY 2019. We would like to thank everyone at Genius NY for sharing our vision of revolutionizing the drone industry with our hybrid technology. We are thrilled to be a part of the Genius NY ecosystem. This award is a real milestone for Sentient Blue; it will allow us to establish the company in Central New York and accelerate our growth and development.

Genius NY takes a single-digit equity stake in finalist companies and the companies relocate to CenterState CEO‘s TechGarden business incubator in Syracuse, NY for a year, often staying longer. The companies commit to a central New York presence for a year, often creating jobs in the process. Winners and finalists from the previous two competitions have put down roots in central New York.

New York State has invested $35 million (€31 million) in a c-drone corridor for testing Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flights, currently being extended to 50 mi (80 km). The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has designated the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research (NUAIR) Alliance facility at Griffiss Airport as one of just seven c-drone test sites in the US.