- Associated Press - Saturday, February 7, 2015

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - It may be just a one-person operation still in the fledgling stage, but a Colorado Springs startup got a big push from the state recently week when it became the first enterprise from the Pikes Peak region to win an advanced-industries grant under a 2-year-old economic development program.

The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade approved Spectrabotics for a $50,000 grant to help it acquire drones, sensors and other equipment to be used in the agricultural, defense and wildfire prevention industries.

Tim Haynie, Spectrabotics founder and owner, still must raise $100,000 from private investors to get the matching grant, which he plans to use to buy and equip up to three drones that will help the company move beyond the prototype stage. He hopes to buy the drone and sensor equipment and have it ready for Spectrabotics to market its services to farmers and ranchers by the spring planting season.

The grant is one of 15 totaling $1.77 million that were given to seven Front Range companies and eight research projects at Colorado universities.

OEDIT received 70 applications for the grants under its Advanced Industry Accelerator Programs, created in 2013 to help turn ideas more quickly into marketable products and services.

“This is a stamp of approval that will help us get others to invest and take us seriously,” Haynie said. “Many companies produce drones and others produce sensors. We are a data service company. We connect the drone, sensor and data management into one package.”

Spectrabotics plans to use the drones, high-resolution cameras and sensor systems to fly over farm fields to gauge such information as soil conditions, crop growth and fertilizer needs. The system also can be used on ranch land to count livestock.

The company will either do the work, or make the equipment available for farmers and ranchers to operate, Haynie said.

This month, Spectrabotics will take its prototype to Camp Shelby in Mississippi to take part in a demonstration on using drones to detect chemical agents.

Haynie said he also is working with the Pikes Peak Wildfire Protection Partnership to use drones to do an analysis of the Black Forest fire burn area.

Haynie, who retired from the Army Space and Missile Defense Command in 2013, started the company in May after spending a year unsuccessfully trying to find a job. He had been a space operations officer for much of his career, working with satellite systems and remote imaging and decided to turn a hobby of building, flying and repairing drones into a business.

“We want to help people make and save money and grow an industry,” Haynie said. “Colorado wants to be in the forefront of the unmanned aerial system industry, and there is a lot of talent in the state’s aerospace industry that could be tapped.”

A special committee of the Colorado Economic Development Commission awarded the first rounds of advanced-industries grants - 44 totaling $10.6 million - last year.

Last week, OEDIT began accepting applications for the next round of proof-of-concept and seed grants at www.advancecolorado.com/aiprograms. They are due March 2.

Grants of up to $150,000 are awarded to research institutions for proof-of-concept projects; the institution must match one-third of the amount. Grants of up to $250,000 are awarded to Colorado companies for early-stage, or seed, capital. Grants of up to $500,000 are available for “collaborative projects that focus on technology or product development that cut across multiple advanced industries.”

Applications for the collaborative projects will be accepted from Feb. 9 to March 27.

About 80 Colorado Springs entrepreneurs and others attended a presentation about the program last week, hosted by the Southern Colorado Economic Forum.

“What I like about these grants is they are available in seven advanced industries - aerospace, manufacturing, bioscience, electronics, energy and natural resources, infrastructure engineering and technology and information - and can help take startups to the next level,” said Tatiana Bailey, the forum’s director. “Cities that have turned around their economies have done it with startups. One of every 50 startups will be a gazelle and grow rapidly, and they are already committed to the area where they started.”

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Information from: The Gazette, https://www.gazette.com


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