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Fotokite CEO Chris McCall poses with a $1 million check after his company won the GENIUS NY business competition this week. 


The winner of a multi-million dollar central New York business competition is a Switzerland-based firm. 

Fotokite won the $1 million grand prize in the Genius NY 2.0 contest for its tethered drone system. A drone is connected to a tether to create a kite-like autonomous vehicle that can fly for up to 24 hours. 

Chris McCall, Fotokite's CEO, called the GENIUS NY win a "game-changer" for his company. As one of six award winners in the competition, Fotokite will operate in central New York for at least one year. 

"We are excited to be expanding operations here to support our customers moving forward and will work hard to continue building on this early momentum," McCall said. "The other teams in the program have been great and there are opportunities to work with them in the next phase of the GENIUS NY program."

GENIUS NY is spearheaded by CenterState CEO and The Tech Garden in Syracuse. The competition is focused on unmanned system development and other technology sectors. It is funded by Empire State Development, New York's leading economic development agency. 

In this year's competition, the $600,000 runner-up prize was awarded to Quantifly, which utilizes drones to help urban planning. TruWeather, which finished third place and will receive $400,000, uses unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor weather conditions and produce real-time data. 

Three finalists — Dropcopter, Precision Vision and UsPLM — were finalists in the competition and will each get $250,000. 

The winners were announced during an event this week at Marriott Syracuse Downtown. The six teams delivered pitches to a panel of seven judges. 

Central New York has made unmanned aerial systems a top economic development priority. When the region's economic council won the Upstate Revitalization Initiative contest in 2015 and secured $500 million in state funding, a major part of the winning strategy was the plan to become a global leader in unmanned vehicle development. 

"The GENIUS NY program is proud of the accomplishments of the round two teams and are excited to award real investments to support these high potential (unmanned aerial systems) companies," said Rob Simpson, president of CenterState CEO. "These teams will be able to leverage these investments to grow their companies and as they advance their technologies and platforms, they will be supporting our region's positions as a global hub for the UAS industry."