The Drones Have Landed in Upstate NY

The Drones Have Landed in Upstate NY

6 innovation companies compete in $2.75 million GENIUS NY competition

After months of scouting the world for the most promising companies to join the GENIUS NY business competition at The Tech Garden, it’s time to welcome six finalist teams to central NY.

Dinosaur BBQ was packed on January 19 for the community’s first intro to the entrepreneurs putting Upstate NY on the map for innovations in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and internet of things (IoT). Hundreds of guests were invited to a Business After Hours event organized by CenterState CEO and sponsored by O’Brien & Gere. I elbowed my way in to meet the teams who were displaying their inventions. Among them is SkyOp, an unmanned aerial systems training company.

“SkyOp is very excited about participating in the GENIUS NY accelerator program,” said CEO Brian Pitre. “It’s another forward-thinking, leading edge initiative that’s thrusting Central New York into a leadership role as the center of innovation in drone technology.”

GENIUS NY is the largest business accelerator competition for the UAS industry in the world.

Accent AeroSystems | GENIUS NY

Jonathan and Nathaniel Meringer | Accent AeroSystems

The year-long accelerator is funded by Empire State Development, and modeled after the 43North business competition in Buffalo. Companies will receive funding and resources to ensure their ventures “take flight,” and help shape the future of central New York.

“The six companies selected in the GENIUS NY program represent the wide array of innovation taking place in the commercial drone industry, said Jon Parry, Director at GENIUS NY. “Technologies ranging from infrastructure inspection to autonomous flight operation will be the building blocks of a new industry that is well positioned to support economic growth in Central New York.”

The finalists were selected from more than 250 submissions. The teams have already taken up residency at The Tech Garden (TTG) in Syracuse. The founders will now focus on growing their businesses with the help of an expansive resource pool of expert industry mentors and a variety of business professionals as part of CenterState CEO’s business incubator center. This includes access to the NUAIR test facility at the Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY – one of the six FAA designated test sites for unmanned aerial systems management. Potential investors, legal and marketing help, as well as physical proximity to more established startup companies in residence at the Tech Garden will also be provided to the teams.  In addition, CenterState CEO has planned a series of events that provide broad exposure for the GENIUS NY companies to the CNY business community to increase the opportunity for creative collisions.

Marc Viggiano is the CEO and and Founder of Niteopark LLC and a member of the Board of Directors at SRC Ventures, a nonprofit that applies science, technology and information to solve big challenges in the areas of defense, environment and intelligence. With over 35 years of experience in the design and development of advanced sensor and communications systems, Marc was selected as a judge and mentor for the GENIUS NY competition.

“We selected companies with a portfolio approach which spans the risk-reward spectrum. This portfolio includes companies from across the drone market space including aerial platforms, navigation, command and control, service based applications and workforce training,” said Viggiano. “Beyond this broad diversity of market segment focus, the companies share sound leadership, enthusiasm, good business plans, and the ability to accelerate their growth based on the resources in central New York,” he added.

Also a seasoned startup investor, Marc says while early stage ventures are always a risky business,  The Tech Garden has dedicated staff and selected mentors who can provide connectivity to the CNY resources which will increase the probability of success for these promising new ventures.

Now it’s time to meet your GENIUS NY finalists!

Accent AeroSystems (Arizona) – Portable, durable future of small unmanned aerial vehicles
Founding team – Jonathan Meringer, Nathaniel Meringer
Creators of Sprite™, Accent AeroSystems has designed a unique vehicle configuration that is superior to typical multirotors. This lightweight tool is used for public safety, research, environment, real estate and military applications.

AutoModality (California) – Automated close-up inspections using drones
Founding team – Ed Koch, Dan Hennage, Jimmy Halliday
Dedicated to creating autonomous mobile systems that sense, explore and analyze the world around us, AutoModality provides technology and services for automated close-up inspection using drones. The company is currently focused on the Agriculture and Infrastructure inspection markets.

Akrobotix (Syracuse) – Safe integration of UAS into the national airspace
Founding team – Sasi Prabhakaran Viswanathan
Safe, reliable and self-contained autopilot systems for fully autonomous unmanned aerial, ground and marine vehicles based on Akrobotix’s proprietary technology.

EZ3D Technologies (Virginia) – Aerial data collection as it should be
Founding team – Reed Frick, Jim Smyth, Marty Marra
EZ3D™ offers a complete toolset for automated inspection and precision 3D measurements of properties using low cost drones, including EZRoof™ and EZFly™. This technology allows professionals to provide repair estimates, claim adjustments and solar installations on-demand and at a fraction of the cost.

OmniMesh (Syracuse) – Boosting drone safety & security
Founding team – Matt Snyder, Bill Abrams, Brian Cavanaugh
Wireless network protocol that is more reliable, secure and convenient than current Internet routing. The OmniMesh network aims to greatly expand the feasibility of drone control and data transmission beyond visual line of sight.

SkyOp (Canandaigua) – Unmanned aerial systems training company
Founding team – Brian Pitre, Dan Albert
Technology transfer company creating training experiences that prepare the American workforce for new jobs and business models created by emerging technologies. SkyOp currently partners with 12 community colleges in four states.

Scheduled for March, all of the companies will be awarded funding to help accelerate their businesses. Grand prizes include investments of $1 million, $600,000 and $400,000. The remaining three companies will receive $250,000 each. CenterState CEO will assume a 5% ownership stake in return for the investments.  

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Kathryn Cartini

Multimedia Storyteller and Community Builder.Syracuse Newhouse grad and former broadcast journalist. Founder of Peacock Media, an all-in-one marketing firm. Associate Partner of Chloe Capital, venture capital firm for women, by women. CMO and voice of @UVConnect. Talent scout and mentor for StartFast Venture Accelerator. Passionate about social entrepreneurship. Always ready to challenge the status quo.

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