Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the winner of the $1 million grand prize from Round II of the GENIUS NY accelerator is Fotokite, a team from Switzerland. The initiative is one of the world's largest business competitions focused on unmanned systems.
GENIUS NY, a year-long business accelerator, awarded six finalist teams a total of nearly $3 million at its finals event tonight, including prizes and investments of $1 million, $600,000, $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 award-winning 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," Governor Cuomo said. "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 to a live audience. Following the pitches, all six competitors were awarded one of six investments. Additionally, the teams will use these investments to continue to accelerate their growth and expand their presence in the region.
Fotokite, from Switzerland, combines aerial and ground-based robotics with patented flight control algorithms to create a kite-like tethered drone system, which actively uses the tether to fly for 24-hours fully autonomously.
Chris McCall, CEO of Fotokite, said, "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; while 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.
The GENIUS NY teams business plans and pitches were judged by Colonel Anthony Basile, Vice President Operations, the NUAIR Alliance; Somak Chattopadhyay, Investor and Managing Partner for Armory Square Ventures; Jim Fayle, Regional Director, Empire State Development Corporation; Craig Marcinkowski, Vice President, Strategy and Corporate Development at SRC/Gryphon Sensors; David M. Montanaro, President and Founder of Strategic Advisory Associates; NoaSimons, Executive Director at Upstate Capital Association of NY; Marc Viggiano, President and CEO at 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. AutoModality's Automated Drone Warehouse Inspection Solution (ADWIS) takes stock of inventory 50 percent faster than manual inspection and avoids putting humans in harm's way. Cell tower and vineyard owners are among those also interested in the automated technology.
In addition to the GENIUS NY competition, New York State is focused on making major investments in the unmanned aircraft systems industry in Central New York. In 2016, Empire State Development invested $30 million in the 50-mile drone test corridor between Syracuse and Rome in the form of a CNY Rising Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant (URI). Last September, Governor Cuomo announced a groundbreaking agreement between NASA and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance to grow the drone industry in Central New York and the Mohawk Valley. The agreement formalizes a partnership in support of two elements of the State's unmanned aerial systems strategy: the launch of the world's first 50-mile Unmanned Traffic Management Corridor and creation of NUSTAR, the most comprehensive UAS test facility in the nation.