With 2020’s unexpected changes disrupting our world and way of life, people all over the planet are feeling the strain as we concede to the new abnormal. The need for new and affordable modes of communication and gathering information is now higher than ever. TSVC’s new program, The Alpha Program, could not have arrived at a greater time — aiming to empower bright entrepreneurs with category defining ideas, the venture capital company is proud to kick-off the first recipient of 150k: Stratodyne, Corp, founded by engineering major and spacecraft innovator, Edward Ge.
Even though Ed and his CTO Amit Pinnamaneni’s days of shooting rockets into the troposphere for giggles are long gone, their lifelong passion for space has yet to fizzle out. Teamed up with fellow UM Columbia students, finance major Bryce Edmonson and aeronautics major Victoria Lofland, the four young colleagues are combining their unique skills to launch Stratodyne to success.
“The thing I like about our team is that…they can do a whole variety of roles,” says Ed, who is currently on a gap year to raise his start-up. “They can be engineers, salespeople, they can help with disbursement — that’s important, especially in a start-up, since you’re limited in how many people you can have.”
Given what the four entrepreneurs are working to accomplish, a savvy, jack-of-all-trades team is exactly what they need. For industries that maintain substantial assets on the ground, such as agriculture, real-estate, forestry, and utilities, aerial data monitoring is a crucial technology that helps prevent billions of dollars in losses every year. Even so, the high cost of utilizing this technology has tethered its potential. With traditional aircrafts and satellites prohibitively expensive and under tight regulations, the needs of our 21st century economy are demanding a user-accessible and affordable solution. Luckily for us, Stratodyne, Corp, is delivering the answer by balloon.
Called StratoSats, these autonomous balloons are getting ready to become the future of aerial data monitoring. “The payload is quite simple,” says start-up founder, Ed. “It’s essentially the same equipment you’d find in a satellite, except it’s being lifted by a balloon.”
But don’t let the straightforward design fool you — the benefits outfly its competitors. Aircrafts and satellites are burdened with numerous costs — the pilot and aircraft itself, its maintenance, and fuel, just to name a few. StratoSats, on the other hand, eliminate those overhead costs and can be manufactured for a fraction of the price. The balloon is made of a UV resistant, temperature resistant, low-gas permeable, polyethylene film that NASA also uses for its balloons. By using additive materials, Ed’s team can further cut costs and enable rapid manufacturing.
The start-up also wants to empower its users by putting the technology directly in their hands. Introduce StratoPortal — a modern, clean interface where users can select different types of data, view current coverage, check platform status, and compare datasets captured through time. The agricultural industry is only one area that would greatly benefit from this technology. Having an early adopter mindset is crucial for survival in this industry, and while corporate factory farms may have access to cutting edge tech, small family farms lose out on this. Despite how vital geospatial data is in agriculture, according to Ed, “There’s nearly 2.1 million farms in the US., but less than 10% of them use services comparable to ours.” Having access to aerial data would help prevent huge losses in crop damage. Ed’s team aims to make StratoPortal as user-friendly as possible, lifting any user to a level of performance they need not just to stay afloat, but to soar.
It doesn’t stop there — Stratodyne has even bigger plans for the balloons. Beyond farming, these devices have extremely strong application in security and surveillance. The StratoSats would be able to hover for months at a time and provide a constant stream of data at an affordable price, compared to the thousands of dollars that flying a drone or aircraft would need to do the same job and for a shorter duration. In fact, someday, one could have access to live geospatial data at all times, all over the world. “Essentially,” Ed says, “We are trying to live stream the entire planet.”
Shocking, but not when you recall that Ed’s childhood dream was to blast through the galaxy in a spaceship, nor when one considers our increasingly techified world. Ed’s parents, both graduates of Zhejiang University, took him to visit NASA when he was a kid. “Beyond my hopes and dreams of playing out StarWars and becoming a jedi,” joked Ed, “I think it’s a new horizon, a new frontier. I think space is possibly the last thing that would unite humanity with a common purpose, and it’s important for our survival as a species.” Big dreams, big ideas — the Stratodyne team has come a long way in crafting an ideal geospatial data system that will provide people with a tool that educates, empowers, and soars to success in the market free of heavy materials and financial weights. Learn more about the team and their ideas at stratodyne.space.
The Alpha Program, Co-founded by TSVC and SAF (Sinovel Angel Fund), awards 150k to entrepreneurs at the pre-seed, alpha stage, who are committed to their category-defining tech ideas and plan to incorporate their company in the US. To apply and receive the resources you need to launch your game-changing designs, visit our website here.