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Genius NY grand prize winner to make “massive pivot” to CNY

By Eric Reinhardt

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Sentient Blue Technologies is the winner of the $1 million top prize in this year’s Genius NY business-accelerator competition at the Tech Garden in Syracuse. Sentient Blue, which is based in Italy, is working to develop hybrid power system for drones. Judges awarded funding to five companies during the “Finals Night” held April 9 at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown. (ERIC REINHARDT / BJNN)

SYRACUSE — With its win in the Genius NY business competition, Sentient Blue Technologies wants to make a “massive pivot” to Syracuse, Rome, and Central New York. 

“The center of gravity and the center of operations of the company will be here in Syracuse, in terms of research and development with the production, maintenance,” says Saif-Deen Akanni, founder, CEO, and chief technical officer of Sentient Blue Technologies.

Genius NY stands for Growing ENtrepreneurs & Innovators in UpState New York.

Sentient Blue, an Italy–based firm with operations at the Tech Garden in Syracuse, plans to use its Genius NY prize funding to accelerate the development and production of its hybrid-power system for drones. 

“We’ll need to basically be filing for some intellectual property protection in the form of patents. We’re going to be hiring more personnel right here in Syracuse and Rome. These are going to be engineering jobs and skilled-manufacturing jobs,” says Akanni, who spoke with CNYBJ after the April 9 Genius NY awards announcement.

Judges selected Sentient Blue Technologies as the grand-prize winner of $1 million in the third year of the Genius NY business-accelerator program at the Tech Garden. The company captured the top prize during the program’s “Finals Night” held at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown. 

Sentient Blue develops “efficient, more environmentally friendly” micro gas turbine-based power plants for use in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to increase flight endurance, CenterState CEO says.

Besides Sentient Blue, four competing Genius NY companies each won $500,000. 

The program, supported by Empire State Development Corporation, invested more than $3 million in the companies, “making it the largest business accelerator competition for the UAS industry in the world.” 

UAS is short for unmanned-aircraft system. A UAS includes a drone and equipment used to control its flight. A drone is also referred to in the industry as an unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.

About Sentient Blue

Sentient Blue Technologies is working on a hybrid-power system for drones because, Akanni notes, most drones are “highly dependent” lithium-polymer batteries. Those batteries have “issues with energy density,” meaning that they can only fly for 30 minutes at a time before the operator has to replace or recharge the battery, Akanni tells CNYBJ. “A lot of the companies that are working with these throughout the working day, they need to take at least 10 batteries with them and a generator to recharge them. Our system is going to eliminate that,” he adds.

The system that Sentient Blue is developing will allow a drone to fly between two and four hours, depending on the design of the drone. The system will produce an increase in endurance and the flight times, says Akanni. 

“We’re going to be decreasing the maintenance down time and increasing the reliability and safety,” says Akanni. 

Sentient Blue has about 25 employees, about half of whom are full-time workers. The firm plans additional hiring in Syracuse and is working to establish additional operations at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, according to Akanni. 

Besides Syracuse and its headquarters in Parma, Italy, Sentient also has operations in Washington, D.C.; the Netherlands; Berlin, Germany; and the United Kingdom. 

$500K winners

The companies that were awarded $500,000 investments included ResilienX of Syracuse, a firm that is developing software to increase the resilience and reduce the maintenance costs of UTM systems. 

This software will monitor the health and integrity of a system and will facilitate fault recovery if a problem is encountered.

UTM is short for UAS traffic management (UTM) platform. 

EagleHawk of Buffalo provides a preventive-maintenance platform for commercial buildings with flat roofs. EagleHawk leverages drones equipped with infrared sensors to detect roof leaks “that are not evident to the naked eye,” according to CenterState CEO.

Vermeer of Brooklyn is an augmented reality drone product that “enables anyone” to capture aerial photos, videos, and data. A user can now design their aerial shot in an augmented reality environment and then send it to a drone to execute autonomously in the real world.

Additionally, CivDrone of Israel develops “fast, reliable and autonomous marking solutions” on enterprise drones for the construction industry. Digitalizing and automating land-surveying services will increase productivity and shorten time of construction while lowering its costs.       

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