Software / Technology

Meet Aerial Applications, the latest drone startup to land at Pennovation

There are now half a dozen drone startups based out of the Grays Ferry research hub. Here's why.

The latest entrant to the Pennovation Center is Aerial Applications, yet another drone company to set up shop at Penn’s research and development hub.

We first met the company at the #PTW17 Signature Event. Posted up on the second floor, the firm was demoing its software platform, built to help companies gather and analyze data from drone flights for different purposes.

CEO Joe Sullivan wants you to think of Aerial Applications as like “Windows for drone operations.”

One client’s use case? The firm mapped the city of Savannah, Ga., in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. The drone sweep, coupled with the company’s software, let Comcast know of 120 spots where cable lines were down.

Seven employees (two at Pennovation, including Sullivan, and five remote) make up the startup’s workforce. It has raised a small angel round of funding, Sullivan said.

Sullivan, a Philly-area native who’s also lived in New York, told the company has been looking for an area to set up shop for a year before landing in Grays Ferry.

“What I like about the Pennovation Center is that, not only the space beautiful, but the ecosystem that’s associated to the space is great,” he said. “Being close to Penn and all of the other drone companies lets us really have a follow-on effect.”

Speaking of the other companies, here’s a quick round up of all the drone-related companies now calling Pennovation home.

  • Verge Aero: The self-proclaimed “drone entertainment company” has some pretty slick drone moves. Synchronized, colorful, dancing drones? Yes, please:

  • Iqinetics: A spinout of Penn’s GRASP Lab, Iqinetics offers “advanced motion control” through motor modules and controllers.
  • DJI: Though headquartered in China, DJI is easily the biggest manufacturer of drones in the world and they have an office right there at Pennovation. Penn’s Dean of Engineering Vijay Kumar gave DJI (along with other companies in this list) a shoutout in this op-ed.
  • Cosy: Yes, though the realLIST company that recently raised $2.35 million is better known for its flagship SCOUT platform, which lets retailers streamline stocking processes through machine vision, its beacon-free nav system can also be applied to drones.
  • Ghost Robotics: This company’s “drone” is more of an UGV, or Unmanned Ground Vehicle. This chill-ass Minitaur played a starring role at Pennovation’s grand opening.

For Penn’s Laurie Actman, the drone-heaviness of the Pennovation Center raises the university’s profile as a center for top research.

“All of the ideas being generated out of the robotics research generate commercialization opportunities that PCI can facilitate,” Actman said. “The cluster of activity also serves as a symbol to the city and the world that Philadelphia and Penn are home to a hotbed of engineering talent generating cutting edge ideas and that brings people to us. It’s a valuable marketing and positioning tool when it comes to attracting faculty, students and industry collaborators.”


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