Get to know the GENIUS NY Cohort 7 teams in our weekly profiles leading up to the Pitch Finals on Oct. 4, 2023.
Kim Mahler has always been interested in the ways we connect to each other.
“I was one of the first among my friends to have to have a [cell] phone because I was just fascinated that you can just walk around and talk. Then, I just saw a lot of potential,” Mahler said.
Originally from Germany, Mahler earned his PhD in wireless communications and has worked for a decade on 5G car-to car communications. He eventually found his way to drone connectivity in 2018. He said his entrance into the uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) space was a natural progression of his interests: ensuring safety of autonomous systems. “Now we’re using our smartphone every day, but the next thing is that all things are being connected and especially moving things,” Mahler said. “Drones will be revolutionary. They are basically like flying smartphones, but need a different kind of connectivity.”
Mahler recognized that drones need a reliable and consistent way to communicate in order for the technology to be safe and make a large-scale impact. This led to Mahler founding the company that is now one of five GENIUS NY finalists, Voltela. Mahler views Voltela as the bridge between the mobile network and the drone industry. “By connecting these two industries, we make drones even smarter, and safer,” Mahler said. “Your smartphone or your laptop is not smart if it’s not connected to the Internet, and connectivity is just very powerful. We make sure that aviation-grade connectivity is provided to the entire drone industry.”
Mahler said reliable connectivity will be essential to scaling drone technology. He points to the work of the company Zipline, which has set up nationwide drone delivery services in Rwanda and Ghana, as an example of what drone technology could be capable of. “This is just amazing. Before that, it was almost impossible to get the medical [supplies] you need in rural areas,” Mahler said. “Now within 30 minutes, you can have any medical supply you need, and it’s just the beginning.”
Voltela’s current customers provide medical supplies, and Mahler is focused on medical delivery. He said he’s personally interested in employing drone technology in ways that can help people, but he’s also combatting the negative perception that some have of drones. Mahler said the view that drones are used for harm instead of good is prevalent, also in his home country Germany. “It needs a little bit of imagination of what good things drones can do,” Mahler said. “But, as opposed to killing people, drones can actually save lives. They’re doing it already but not yet at scale in every country. Voltela is trying to help making drone services a safe reality.”
Find out more about what Voltela is working on, along with the four other GENIUS NY Cohort 7 finalist companies, as they compete for a chance to win the $1 million prize at Innovation Night featuring GENIUS NY Pitch Finals on Oct. 4 in Downtown Syracuse. Get a chance to meet and network with other emerging startups in Central New York from the Syracuse Surge Accelerator and The Tech Garden. Tickets are free but registration is required. Learn more and get tickets here!