Three million dollars in a single night. New York state made that direct investment in the uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) economy last week for the seventh time. Five competing UAS companies pitched live to a crowd of hundreds of people and a panel of judges, making the case that their technology is industry-disrupting and that Syracuse and Central New York is the place to be.
This is the world’s largest UAS accelerator, GENIUS NY. Based in Syracuse and administered by CenterState CEO, GENIUS NY is keystone in New York state’s innovation ecosystem strategy. Now in its seventh round, the accelerator has helped establish New York state as a global leader in the UAS space, with the hub of this world-leading innovation along the Central New York and Mohawk Valley corridor.
This year’s grand prize winner, blueflite, offers a drone-based logistics platform. Its patented, unique, and all-electrical drone design has vertical take-off and landing capabilities, advanced maneuverability, and is built to meet the rigorous demands of commercial operations.
“In Syracuse, we’ve discovered a unique ecosystem perfectly suited for blueflite’s ambitions,” said blueflite cofounder Frank Noppel. “Firstly, we’ve found opportunity to collaborate with top-tier manufacturing facilities for batch production using advanced 3D printing technology while adhering to the most stringent aerospace standards. Secondly, Syracuse provides access to the world’s most advanced drone test facility, which is required for our ongoing drone production and R&D efforts. Lastly, the city’s thriving community of drone tech companies that we can integrate onto our drone platform makes it one of the most competitive drone solutions out there. Together, these elements make Syracuse the ideal fit for blueflite.”
While $1 million is the grand prize, it’s not the only prize. The GENIUS NY program, administered by CenterState CEO and funded by Empire State Development, New York State’s primary economic development entity, distributes a total of $3 million across the five teams. The four other finalists each received a $500,000 investment:
- Aloft provides software solutions for individual aircraft and full fleet management to make drone operation safer and more valuable.
- Greenjets creates electric propulsors that make drones safer, quieter and more sustainable.
- Voltela provides software that ensures a reliable and consistent communication network for uncrewed aerial systems.
- VOTIX supplies a hardware-agnostic platform that enables drone automation, orchestration and remote operation.
“Uncrewed systems are the future of aviation, with far reaching applications that touch so many other industries and aspects of our daily lives,” said Kara Jones, CenterState CEO director of GENIUS NY. “From autonomous flights for travel to improving how we transport goods, to improving processes around data collection and inspections, to health care, defense and more – UAS is transforming how we live and work. These GENIUS NY teams are at the leading edge of their technologies and have demonstrated their strong potential for growth and success. As market demands evolve and technology advances, these and other UAS companies have access to the most robust concentration of firms, infrastructure and investments anywhere in the country, here in New York.”
The partnership by the State of New York and its investment in the UAS innovation ecosystem is truly unique. The state has made major investments in the uncrewed aircraft systems industry, including an initial investment of $35 million to develop a 50-mile, UAS flight traffic management corridor; $33 million through seven rounds of GENIUS NY competition, including $21 million in direct investment in 37 GENIUS NY teams, and $16.6 million in ongoing investments for the expansion of CenterState CEO’s business incubator in downtown Syracuse to help grow its UAS industry efforts.
This public sector support has helped make New York state a leader in the work being done to safely integrate drones into the national airspace and enable the next phase of Advanced Air Mobility operations. With its concentration of unique, innovative and complimentary businesses all choosing it as a base of their operations, the Central New York region cements itself as the place to move the UAS industry forward. It’s an environment conducive to collaboration and synergy, especially among GENIUS NY teams.
GENIUS NY’s most recent winner blueflite has already found partners in past GENIUS NY finalists. They’re working with Wonder Robotics to launch delivery drones and partnered with AVSS for innovation and drone safety. By pooling their expertise, resources, and technology, these startups are driving progress in UAS technology, safety, and operational efficiency. New York State, with its commitment to fostering UAS innovation, serves as an ideal incubator for these collaborative endeavors. GENIUS NY provides a nurturing environment where startups can leverage their collective talents and propel the UAS industry to new heights, ultimately shaping the future of autonomous aerial systems.
Josh Ziering, Aloft founder and winner of $500,000 said, “It’s an exciting time to be in Syracuse. It’s why we’re moving the whole company here. If we wanted to do it, now’s the time, and if we wanted to be in a certain place Syracuse is the spot. We’re looking forward to growing our team here and ultimately building out. Syracuse is the tip of the spear for Aloft.”
To learn more about GENIUS NY and the investments it’s made in UAS startups, visit www.geniusny.com. To read Governor Hochul’s official press release, click here.
About GENIUS NY: GENIUS NY is the world’s largest business accelerator program focused on uncrewed aerial systems, robotics and IoT. In addition to those direct investments, the program offers incubator space, company resources, programming, business connections and mentoring to finalists. Participants are required to operate their business in Central New York for at least one year.