GENIUS NY Accepting Entries for $3M Start-Up Competition

Fotokite CEO Chris McCall works with one of the firm’s tethered drones.
Photo courtesy of GENIUS NY.

An international competition for unmanned technology start-ups is now accepting entries for the 4th year of its annual contest. The five finalists will each get a year of training and networking at an entrepreneurial accelerator plus a share of a total of $3 million in cash with the winner taking home a $1 million top prize.

Based in Syracuse, New York, the GENIUS NY program has helped more than a dozen companies solidify their business plans and make the necessary connections to secure partners, customers and follow-up funding. Those firms selected as finalists spend a year at a Syracuse-based accelerator where they have office space and amenities plus workshops, training, mentoring and opportunities for networking.

Among the winners so far have been AutoModality, a drone-based inspection firm with proprietary software that enables fully autonomous close-up infrastructure inspection, especially in difficult-to-navigate areas where GPS may be unavailable or there are other safety risks. The firm now offers software to support automated inventory in warehouses.

Fotokite of Switzerland won in 2018 with a kite-like, tethered drone system that can fly fully autonomously for 24 hours. Intended to support first responders the Fotokite Sigma UAS is both launched and landed with a button and does not require a pilot during flight. The height is controlled with a scroll-bar on the right of the control pad and the camera angle/drone heading are controlled with a simple swiping gesture to orient the view.

This April Sentient Blue Technologies, a team from Parma, Italy, won the $1 million prize. The firm is working to boost the length of drone flights by developing efficient, more environmentally friendly, micro gas turbine-based power plants.

GENIUS NY is looking for entrants who are focused on unmanned systems’ hardware, software and analytics. The contest is also open to robotics, data-to-decision platforms and, in some cases, Internet of Things (IoT)-related technologies.

The entry deadline for the upcoming contest is October 1. This source of opportunity, however, appears to be drawing to a close. As of now this will be the second to last year for the GENIUS NY program.