[ Editor’s note: This article was written by Carole Mattessich, director of the Smart Airport and Aviation Partnership (SAAP). The SAAP is managed by the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) and funded through grants from the United States Economic Development Administration (USEDA) awarded to the NIA and to the Atlantic County Economic Alliance (ACEA) to help further innovation and economic development in the Southern New Jersey aviation hub.
The SAAP offers startups and existing aviation companies membership in flightPlan, the Aviation Accelerator (Egg Harbor Township).
Most of the accelerator attendees this year are from New Jersey. As Mattessich said in a recent email, “Our organization is funded by federal grants, so there’s no “charge” other than the time and energy you will put into the experience. This includes two virtual sessions a week, and additional time on an aviation project of your choice (e.g., tech demo, live flight exercise).”
“The sessions cover topics ranging from “corporate formation” to “funding opportunities,” and each session is led by a subject matter expert (SME). Our past SMEs and mentors are among the most respected aviation experts in the business, including colleagues from the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] William J. Hughes Technical Center, in Atlantic City.“]
Meet Our Accelerator Cohort!
By Carole Mattessich
We’re delighted to introduce you to the newest members of flightPlan, the Aviation Accelerator.
Selected in a competitive process last month, they are now engaged in twice-weekly virtual sessions segmented serially into focus areas like Leadership, Market Analytics, External Marketing, Funding, Industry Trends and Intellectual Property.
Along with their group sessions, each company receives personal mentoring, and each will create a project that demonstrates its product or service to the public. (Demo’s will probably occur at the National Aerospace Research and Technology Park on April 20.)
Cohort sessions typically include a subject matter expert, in addition to the accelerator leadership team of Dave Sweet, Brandon Graham and me. Additionally, in a unique month-long segment of the accelerator program, we will be joined by an array of FAA Tech Center personnel who will introduce the cohort to the Tech Center’s operations and research areas.
We’ll tell you more about those superb SMEs ─ who volunteer their time not only as guest speakers and discussion leaders, but also for individual mentoring ─ in the coming months.
The new cohort itself includes a unique blend of talent that in many ways mirrors the greater aviation ecosystem. There’s one classic start-up, two manufacturers who are pivoting into aviation from successes in other industries, a research professor, several rockstars from the UAS [unmanned aircraft system] segment of a European nonprofit specializing in aviation community outreach and even a sweet southern New Jersey airport that is developing as an important center for future mobility activity. Quite a sandbox for learning with and from one another!
So … Drum roll, please. Time to meet our cohort members.
- Aeriform is the classic “startup.” Founded by a Rowan University engineering student, it aims to provide drone services using a variety of sensors for mapping, inspections and data analysis that will help end users make decisions relevant to their lines of business (for example, professional engineering firms whose work might be furthered by a UAS). Founder Doug Hartmann is currently exploring the pros and cons of potential target markets.
- Alex Nguyen, CEO of Concepts Beyond, joins our sessions from the Washington, D.C., area. The company has considerable experience in designing solutions for complex uses in the national airspace, including intensive work with UAS test beds. Its advanced aviation data analytics and software engineering provide airport operators, regulators and others with an array of leading-edge tools and solutions that incorporate, among other capabilities, artificial intelligence, digital twins and gaming technologies.
- Flight Crowd is a U.K.-based nonprofit devoted to increasing public knowledge and engagement in future mobility, and to infusing DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion]into all aspects of the evolving industry. Founder Mariya Tarabanovska cites the growing availability of STEAM [science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics] educational activities and workshop access as positive signs, and will use the flightPlan Accelerator experience to explore ways to grow partnerships and collaborative efforts in the United States. The U.K. government is supporting her efforts, which will stretch to the future mobility community throughout Europe.
- Graphene Layers (New Brunswick) is studying whether its successful innovative use of graphene in other industries might be applied in segments of the aviation industry as well. Potential uses might relate to graphene’s anti-corrosive, conductivity and fire-resistance properties. With a home base in New Jersey, GL’s founder, Alhaz Shiliwala, already has visited us here and engaged the NARTP [National Aerospace Research & Technology Park] as a potential strategic partner in the Clean Energy Challenge, currently underway at the NJEDA [New Jersey Economic Development Authority].
- Project EON is led by aviation engineering rockstars and New Jersey residents Phil Maloney and Andy Tasso. They’re exploring a new venture and potential commercialization of a great new technology that would facilitate the use of aviation data by businesses and individuals facing multiple financial and other challenges involved in accessing airspace. The new company also would focus on lowering the costs of access for the growing UAS and future mobility markets.
- SpatialGIS is a geospatial intelligence company using drones for surveying, mapping, automated data collection and analytics in pre/post-disaster assessments. CEO Kendrick Faison brings more than 13 years’ experience in geospatial and emergency management activity, including from the leadership efforts of FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. His staff includes a rapid emergency response geospatial team and, most recently, a group of interns from University of California, Berkeley. SpacialGIS is headquartered
- Thomas Instrumentation (Cape May Court House) is a full-service electronics engineering design and manufacturing firm trusted by private industry and government for over half a century, producing everything from simple electronics to complex embedded control systems. CEO Cassandra Gluyas is noted for her customized approach to industry requests ─ explain your needs, and her team will fashion electronic solutions. They support the entire product life cycle: initial concept, engineering design, PCB [printed circuit board] layout, software development, prototyping, parts procurement, production, testing and sustainment/repairs.
- Woodbine Municipal Airport (call letters “KOBI”), a public-use general aviation airport with a rich history going back to WWII, is being used increasingly by companies to test and fly UAS and small aircraft. Mayor Bill Pikolycky [Woodbine] is a great supporter of the transformation because it brings economic development to his town. Though it has the look and feel of a sweet Midwestern stopover site, the airport is located within the seventh most distressed of 564 municipalities in New Jersey. But it’s also equidistant to New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and has relatively uncomplicated airspace ─ within the busy Northeast Aviation Corridor. Thus, borough clerk/airport manager Alex Bauer and deputy borough clerk Laurie Boyd are bringing a unique perspective, inspiring multiple discussions, to their cohort colleagues on the question of how to best modernize infrastructure and leverage the airport’s central location and airspace to transform it into a 21st-century hub for future mobility craft and leading aviation research
We are thrilled with the unique character, qualities and energy that each of these new colleagues brings to our accelerator program and to our regional aviation hub!