The Sky Guys is an Oakville, Ontario-based developer of aerial technology and provider of UAV-enabled services. Founded in March 2015, the company was conceptualized to drive innovation in the rapidly expanding commercial drone market. Their technologies are used across a vast range of industries, including oil and gas, construction, agriculture, and mining.
Recently, the company was announced as recipients of a $750,000 procurement contract from the Government of Ontario through the first ever Small Business Innovation Challenge (SBIC). The program awards Ontario-based SMEs with funding to develop and commercialize solutions to public-sector challenges. The ‘Vehicle Occupancy Detection’ challenge was one that could be solved through drone technology, which is why The Sky Guys were drawn to the program.
As winners of the Small Business Innovation Challenge, the Sky Guys will work closely with Nvidia, IBM, the University of Toronto, and the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) to develop an artificial intelligence-enabled drone system to monitor Ontario’s 400-series highways. This will help enforce carpool lane rules and ticket drivers not complying with them.
How the Small Business Innovation Challenge is Supporting The Sky Guys
The Sky Guys is a leader in unmanned solutions and technologies. Since being founded only a few years ago, the company has seen extraordinary growth and continues to expand its technology and service capabilities for innovative uses. They are now Canada’s leading provider of drone services, including drone inspection services and aerial mapping/surveying.
In June 2016, the predominantly services-based company launched Defiant Labs, a research and development arm capable of producing new technologies. This gives The Sky Guys an even greater advantage in their services-based approach, since they can seamlessly develop and provide solutions to an ever-growing list of clients.
Then in March 2017, the Government of Ontario launched the Small Business Innovation Challenge (SBIC) and The Sky Guys were a perfect fit. The challenge they responded to was ‘Developing an automated way to detect how many people are in vehicles using high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes to ensure that vehicles with more than one occupant are not mistakenly billed or fined’.
As a top Canadian innovator in the drone space, The Sky Guys successfully applied to the program, receiving funding to develop prototypes, conduct testing, and demonstrate the technology in an experimental setting.
The SBIC awarded a procurement contract to The Sky Guys worth $750,000.
Through greater access to funding, the company will be able to invest more heavily in research and development and create technologies for even more innovative drone applications. This will help lead to further growth, both in Canada and across the world.
About the Small Business Innovation Challenge
The Small Business Innovation Challenge (SBIC) was created to procure solutions for challenges affecting Ontario’s public sector. Through the program, the Government of Ontario seeks technology-driven proposals from high-growth firms operating in the province.
The program maintains two streams of technology development support, including:
- Feasibility and Merit Projects: Awards up to 100% of project costs to a maximum $100,000 in support of concept feasibility studies. Eligible innovations will have achieved a technology readiness level (TRL) of 1-2 at the time of application.
- Product Development and Demonstration Projects: Awards up to 75% of project expenses to a maximum of $1 million in support of prototype development projects. Eligible innovations will have achieved a technology readiness level (TRL) of 3-7 at the time of application.
Following the completion of a successful Product Development and Demonstration Project, businesses may also be awarded a contract to sell their technology to the Government of Ontario.
To qualify for the program, applicants must be an incorporated, for-profit, Ontario-based SME with manufacturing capabilities and must be capable of developing a technology-based solution to a current innovation challenge.
Apply for the Small Business Innovation Challenge
The Small Business Innovation Challenge is a competitive Ontario government funding program supporting a two-phase application process. Businesses must submit an Expression of Interest as required from a specific challenge’s deadlines. Applicants who have the capacity to further research, develop, and test technology-based solutions may then be invited to submit a full proposal for their innovative concept.
To discuss your eligibility for the program’s current challenges or explore other types of technology funding programs, please contact Mentor Works.
This post originally appeared on Mentor Works. Mentor Works helps established for-profit companies find and leverage Canadian business grants and loans.