Drone Start-Up Wins Grand Prize in MIT Competition


1154_raptor_maps Drone Start-Up Wins Grand Prize in MIT CompetitionRaptor Maps, a start-up with a goal of feeding the world by using drone technology, has won an entrepreneurship competition by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Raptor Maps won the Robert P. Goldberg $100,000 grand prize after beating out seven other finalist teams of the MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition.

The Raptor Map co-founders, all of whom are engaged in NASA research to help transport humans to Mars, are the following:

  • Nikhil Vadhavkar, PhD candidate, MIT Health Sciences and Technology;
  • Forrest Meyen, PhD candidate, MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics; and
  • Edward Obropta, PhD candidate, MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Raptor Maps uses proprietary multispectral imaging that scans large areas of farmland and, with the use of analytics, pinpoints crop damage before pests and diseases can spread. This enables focused pesticide application, which increases crop yields and reduces environmental impact.

‘The seeds for Raptor Maps were planted in July 2014 during a NASA-funded planetary geology expedition in Idaho,’ says Vadhavkar, who previously led a team with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to use drones to deliver emergency medical supplies in developing nations. ‘Forrest and I found that the resolution of satellite data was too low. But drone technology provided critical data within the same day.’

Initially, he said, the founders thought about selling their drone system. ‘But by engaging with farmers and other clients, we realized they cared far more about obtaining data than operating drones,’ says Vadhavkar. ‘Now, with the help of the MIT $100K Competition, we will be able to deliver our services where they are needed the most.’

This year's teams of finalists emerged from a pool of 194 competing teams. A panel of judges – made up of venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs and industry professionals – said they chose Raptor Maps based on the strength of the start-up’s technology, business plan, pitch and team composition.

To date, the MIT $100K has facilitated the birth of more than 160 companies, which have gone on to raise $1.3 billion in venture capital and build $16 billion in market capitalization.

Photo courtesy of Raptor Maps

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