Drone Start-Ups Win Big in New York State

genius ny

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, D-N.Y., has announced that the winner of the $1 million grand prize for Round II of GENIUS NY – an unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) business competition in central New York  – is Fotofike, a team from Switzerland.

Fotokite combines aerial and ground-based robotics with patented flight control algorithms to create a kite-like tethered drone system, which uses a tether to fly for 24 hours fully autonomously.

GENIUS NY, a yearlong business accelerator, awarded six finalist teams a total of nearly $3 million at its finals event on Monday night, including prizes and investments of $1 million, $600,000 and $400,000 and three $250,000 awards. Participants are required to operate their business in central New York for at least one year. The advancement of the GENIUS NY program builds on the progress of CNY Rising, the region’s strategic plan to revitalize communities and grow the economy.

“GENIUS NY II continues to build on the success of the first round of this groundbreaking competition,” Cuomo says. “By committing to creating a comprehensive network for innovative UAS companies in central New York, we continue to grow central New York into a centralized hub for innovation to grow the region’s economy for years to come.”

During the event, held at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown, the six teams pitched their business plans to a panel of judges and live audience. Following the pitches, all competitors were awarded one of six investments.

GENIUS NY is funded by Empire State Development (ESD) and administered by The Tech Garden and CenterStateCEO. It also offers company stipends, housing, resources, programming and networking opportunities.

Chris McCall, CEO of Fotokite, says, “This is tremendous support from the GENIUS NY program and CenterState CEO and a total game-changer for Fotokite. We are excited to be expanding operations here to support our customers moving forward and will work hard to continue building on this early momentum. The other teams in the program have been great, and there are opportunities to work with them in the next phase of the GENIUS NY program.”

Quantifly was awarded the second-place prize of $600,000; TruWeather was named third place, winning $400,000; and three finalists, UsPLM, Dropcopter and Precision Vision, all were awarded $250,000. TruWeather was also named the crowd favorite in a live poll taken during the event.

Michigan-based Quantifly simplifies and reduces the costs of parking and traffic studies by combining UAS, machine vision and analytics; Virginia-based TruWeather is building a service to improve the precision, accuracy and communication of weather intelligence; Syracuse, N.Y.-based UsPLM provides a collaborative environment to develop, test, deploy and safely operate drones; California-based Dropcopter has developed technology that allows farmers to pollinate orchards via drones; and New Mexico-based Precision Vision creates image processing technology that makes real-time precision imaging affordable.

“Thanks to our investments in the GENIUS NY competition, innovative UAS companies are coming to central New York to both build their success and to continue to grow the region as a global hub for the UAS industry,” comments Howard Zemsky, ESD’s president, CEO and commissioner.

Rick Clonan, vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship at CenterState CEO, adds, “We are still at the beginning of the program and look forward to several more months of helping these teams make industry connections and refine their technologies. As we learned from the program’s first round, the coming months will be incredibly productive for these teams, and the resources we provide will be leveraged to drive further success and progress.”

The GENIUS NY teams were judged by Colonel Anthony Basile, vice president of operations at the NUAIR Alliance; Somak Chattopadhyay, investor and managing partner at Armory Square Ventures; Jim Fayle, regional director at EDS; Craig Marcinkowski, vice president of strategy and corporate development at SRC/Gryphon Sensors; David M. Montanaro, president and founder of Strategic Advisory Associates; Noa Simons, executive director of Upstate Capital Association of NY; and Marc Viggiano, president and CEO of Niteopark LLC.

Last year’s GENIUS NY ‘s Round 1 winner, Automodality, has successfully launched its Perceptive Navigation software, which turns small drones into highly precise automated inspection agents.

“The GENIUS NY competition continues to be a great way to foster UAS innovation and spur economic development in central New York and the Mohawk Valley,” says Anthony J. Picente Jr., Oneida County executive. “The winning businesses have the opportunity to become active partners with Oneida County’s UAS test site at Griffiss International Airport and to help solidify our 50-mile Unmanned Traffic Management Corridor.”

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