Drone, landmine robot, unicycle startups get money from University of Waterloo Velocity program

Pegasus Aeronautics won a total of $35,000 from the Velocity Fund Awards for their hybrid powertrain technology that can keep drones and unmanned aerial vehicles in the air for longer than battery-powered devices.

Landmine Boys startup also received $10,000 in competition for engineering students

Hybrid powertrain technology being developed by University of Waterloo students will help keep drones in the area longer. (CBC)

Technology that will help keep drones in the air longer was the big winner of the Velocity Fund Awards at the University of Waterloo.

The hardware company Pegasus Aeronautics won $25,000 in seed money and an additional $10,000 for the top hardware prize Thursday. Their hybrid powertrain technology may also be used to make unmanned aerial vehicles viable for industrial operators.

The team from Pegasus Aeronautics won $25,000 in seed money and an additional $10,000 for the top hardware prize in the Velocity Fund Awards at the University of Waterloo on Thursday. (University of Waterloo handout)

"Our technology solves a need that has been hindering the industry from its inception by removing the limitations that batteries place on drone flight time," Pegasus co-founder and CEO Matt McRoberts said in a release after the win.

He said the funding will allow them to speed up beta testing so they can get their product to market sooner.

$125,000 in prize money awarded

Velocity is an entrepreneurship program at the university open to students and recent alumni. The program handed out $125,000 on Thursday – four grand prizes of $25,000 and three prizes of $5,000. Those who won will also have access to Velocity workspaces, such as the Velocity Garage, a 36,000 square foot space that is the home base of 120 startups in Waterloo.

Fiix, a platform that connects customers with affordable, skilled mechanics, and Okey, an app that automatically logs a user into digital accounts when they are just near their mobile devices, also received two of the grand prizes.

Taking home $5,000 were AVRO Life Science, which makes transdermal drug patches so people can get their antihistamines more effectively; Moocow Unicycles, which designs and sells unique, durable unicycle parts; and Gamelynx, a digital gaming platform that allows users to play board games or cards without using physical items. Gamelynx also won the people's choice award.

Landmine-defusing robot won twice in one week

A robot that can safely defuse landmines without causing an explosion also received $25,000 in start-up money from the Velocity Fund Thursday.

Earlier in the week, Landmine Boys won $10,000 from the Norman Esch Capstone Design Awards, a competition for UW engineering students.

Richard Yim, a mechanical engineering student and CEO of Landmine Boys, was born in Cambodia and in an interview on the university's website, said he spent the first 13 years of his life being warned about where he should play due to the fear of landmines.

Landmines are easy and cheap to make, but expensive and dangerous to remove, he said.

"Our robot will eliminate risk to human operators by allowing them to run it from a safe distance," Richard Yim, a mechanical engineering student and CEO of Landmine Boys, said in a release about the engineering competition award. "We will also defuse landmines without exploding them to prevent any damage to local infrastructure and farmland."

The team, made up of five mechanical engineering students including Yim, has already travelled to Cambodia to test their prototype on a landmine that did not have TNT, meaning it would not explode. They plan to build a second prototype that will be tested on an active landmine with TNT before the end of this year.


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