hot drone startups

13 hot drone startups to know for 2021

Think the drone industry has peaked? Probably not. More and more fresh ideas keep pouring into the world of drones, as evidenced by these hot drone startups.

GENIUS NY, a business accelerator program at CenterState CEO’s Tech Garden, a site in Syracuse, New York designed to stimulate high-tech entrepreneurship, this summer announced the semi-finalists in the fifth round of its annual business competition. And in doing so, it uncovered some of the newest, hot drone startups that the industry should be paying attention to.

The competition looked at nearly 600 organizations and startups spread across more than 50 companies from fields representing not just drones (although that is a huge focus) but also drone-adjacent fields including internet of things (IoT) and big data. And now, those 600 teams have been whittled down to just 13.

The 13 semi-finalists chosen in the 2021 GENIUS NY business accelerator program come from six different countries — the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, Germany, Israel and the U.S. Within the U.S., five are from CenterState’s own state of New York.

Here are the 2021 GENIUS NY semi-finalists:

Airial Robotics (Hamburg, Germany): a drone maker looking to build a drone that exceeds current industry standards in terms of flight time, payloads, range, speed and efficiency.

Airtonomy (Grand Forks, North Dakota): a software company that uses Artificial Intelligence to enable autonomous capture, analysis, and integration of critical infrastructure data.

Airwayz (Tel Aviv, Israel): a company that creates software-based AI that allows any drone of any type to be part of an autonomous drone fleet and perform multiple tasks in a variety of fields.

Birdstop (San Francisco, California): a startup looking to build a new layer of infrastructure for the skies. 

CarScanner (Krakow, Poland): a company building technology that can conduct a visual inspection of any car in 120 seconds.

Circle Optics (Rochester, New York): a startup making a stitch-less, instant 360° camera.

Fusion Engineering (Delft, Netherlands): a hardware company working to create a reliable, flexible and easy-to-use flight controller for any type of multirotor drone.

Organic Robotics (Rochester, New York): a company working to bring Light Lace technology to market.

Reign Maker (New York, New York): a company building a payload contraption for certain DJI Matrice drones that can collect water samples which are then analyzed to make sure water supplies remain clean and safe.

Robodub (Buffalo, New York): a drone company that has built “morphing drone” technology to enable safer, more efficient and more practical transport of multiple and dynamic payloads. 

SmartSpace AI (Costa Mesa, California): a startup that leverages data from existing cameras, sensors, access control, and digital twin to equip operators with automated supports and the ability to know the location of other threats (or friends and assets) in real-time.

Voltela (New York, New York): a company working to build better connectivity for commercial drones.

Windshape (Geneva, Switzerland): a company that designs, manufactures and operates digital wind facilities – an alternative to wind tunnels – for aerodynamic and flight research and education, as well as drone certification.

These hot drone startups were chosen for factors including their ability to scale successfully and to represent diversity of technology focus and team makeup.

And now that they’ve been chosen, the startups will move to Central New York this summer to start establishing their businesses at The Tech Garden in downtown Syracuse. Upon completing their pitch, the startups will present it to a panel of judges, where they’ll competing for funding ($1 million for the grand prize, or $500,000 to the remaining four teams).

It’s a cycle that has been going on for a few years now. Ever since 2017, GENIUS NY has invested $12 million in 22 companies. In part, the goal is to turn New York into a drone hub, requiring that startups participate in a yearlong in-residence accelerator in order to receive funding (and to presumably stay there). In exchange, the companies also receive assistance with product development, business development, as well as networking opportunities with investors and business leaders for future funding (companies have raised more than $40 million in follow-on funding and have created over 50 jobs in Upstate New York).

And a lot of that aligns with the state’s broader interest in drones. At least in the drone world, New York is famous for New York’s Griffiss International Airport, which was one of just seven FAA-designated UAS test sites in the United States. There’s a 50-mile drone corridor which — unlike a real corridor — is a digital corridor comprised of a network of sensors and radar. It’s designed to allow companies to test drones and UTM technology in real world settings, generating data for the industry and regulators, all in the hopes of making widespread commercial drone adoption more viable. It’s also the site of the UTM Pilot Program Phase 2. It’s also been the site of other drone testing projects including drone parachutes.

Which hot drone startups stand out to you, and which one will do you think will win the $1 million prize? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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