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Sixth GENIUS NY cohort builds on UAS economy in Central New York

The Syracuse Tech Garden serves as a business incubator for Central New York's technology economy. October 28, 2022.
Katie Zilcosky
The Syracuse Tech Garden serves as a business incubator for Central New York's technology economy. October 28, 2022.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently approved the 50-mile corridorbetween Syracuse's Hancock International Airport and Rome's Griffiss International Airport to fly uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) beyond the line of site.Local leaders said that builds on the strong foundation built years ago to grow the region’s UAS economy.

Part of that foundation is GENIUS NY, a business accelerator competition that aids the growth of startups focusing on drone technology.

This year all five finalists are from outside of the United States. GENIUS NY program coordinator Emma Spector said as the program grows year after year, so do the contestants.

"It used to be super early phase companies, and now we're at the point where they're either at seed or going into their Series A round," Spector said. "So that just the maturity of the companies that we have is really elevating the caliber of the program and what they can bring to the table in terms of contributing to the ecosystem that we've already built."

Spector adds that the teams that build in Syracuse as a part of the competition often continue their work here. She said of the 27 companies that have gone through the program, 20 are still based in upstate New York.

"We've had a really good success rate with the companies that have gone through the program and making sure that they want to continue to thrive in our community and continue to expand," Spector said. "I think the best example is a Fotokite. They're a Switzerland-based company. They went through the program in 2018. They started out in the GENIUS center in the Tech Garden and have since expanded to an even larger space in the Tech Garden and continue to grow here."

One of the five finalists this year is Aerial Vehicle Safety Solutions (AVSS). The company is based in Canada and makes parachutes that guide drones to land in certain trajectories to avoid traffic or power lines.

CEO Josh Ogden said AVSS has already invested $100,000 in the Central New York UAS economy through running theirtest flights at Griffiss Airport in Rome. The company also recently made its first local job offer and plans to buy property in Rome.

"When you look at like the global drone industry and opportunities to grow your business, specifically the United States, you know, this cohort is all international companies," Ogden said. "Upstate New York, Syracuse, the Rome area has is shown that there's a strong ecosystem of companies in the drone system, but as well as a support network, as well as just the investment opportunity."

The five GENIUS NY finalists will pitch their products Thursday evening, and one will receive the grand prize of a $1 million investment. The GENIUS NY finals night at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown is open to the public. It's free to attend, but tickets are required to secure space.

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.
Isabel Flores is a graduate student studying Broadcast and Digital Journalism at Syracuse University’s S.I. School of Public Communications, expected to graduate in May of 2023. As a multimedia reporter, she helps to present as well as produce audio and digital content for WAER. In her free time, Isabel enjoys working out and listening to all genres of music.