COE Dr. Rob Hoyt explains his company’s vision for “GlobalFi” system of cell tower satellites in space. High tech Starburst Accelerator conference held at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo where startup companies could pitch their ideas and business plans to investors, tech contractors and the U.S. military in an informal, seminar-like setting. March 21, 2017. (Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze/SCNG)
By Sandy Mazza, Daily Breeze
Ten of the most promising new regional aerospace start-up companies descended on El Segundo on Tuesday to pitch their futuristic concepts for the next wave of industry advancement, from orbiting cell towers in space to drones that communicate with each other.
The event, organized by new-tech business support company Starburst Accelerator, was held at The Aerospace Corp., the research and development arm of the adjacent Los Angeles Air Force Base.
Such meetings between legacy aerospace companies and energetic up-and-comers are becoming commonplace, as the industry works to keep up with a flood of technological advancements propelling the commercialization of low-Earth orbit.
“We built a bureaucracy against innovation. My challenge to you is to challenge us,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Baird, vice commander of the L.A. Air Force Base Space and Missile Systems Center, who represented the nation’s defense industry at the event.
“Challenge the norm. Throw rocks at us. I just can’t get over how awesome this event is because this is exactly what we need to hear. We’ll tilt whatever windmill we have to tilt to make change happen. We’re defending our nation. How do we best do that? We need your thinking and innovation.”
Aerospace Corp. CEO Steve Isakowitz said accelerating private investment in the commercial space market is overlapping with the military defense sector and the civilian sector led by NASA.
SPACE ‘GETTING REALLY BUSY’
“Space is getting really busy in the commercial sector,” Isakowitz said. “We have all three sectors starting to overlap with each other. Our strategy is to do innovation in two ways: from the inside out, and from the outside in.”
Starburst Accelerator, a Paris-based start-up business developer, opened a Los Angeles office about a year ago and has since sprung a venture-capital arm.
It already has helped a local company that makes large commercial autonomous drones, an augmented reality software and hardware maker, and others get off the ground.
Among those hoping to get financial backing to make their futuristic dreams a reality on Tuesday was Cerritos-based Tri-D Dynamics, a low-cost rocket engine maker founded by recent Purdue University graduate students Deepak Atyam and Alex Finch.
SMALL, POWERFUL SATELLITES
“We’re trying to enable getting CubeSats into orbit at low cost,” Atyam said.
CubeSats are mini-satellites about the size of a loaf of bread that are affordable enough for an explosion of supportive commercial ventures.
Akash Systems, a San Francisco company that also pitched Tuesday, said it has developed a way to transmit massive amounts of data through CubeSats. The trick is using a proprietary crystal-like gallium nitride to keep the equipment cool while amplifying its power. The mini-satellites will be able to provide nearly unlimited data to phones and devices around the world.
“We think we can squeeze a kilowatt of power inside this CubeSat,” said Akash CEO Felix Ejeckam. “(Our material) has the highest thermal connectivity of any material in nature.”
Washington-based Firmamentum has grand plans for a $4 billion network of orbiting cell towers. But, first, it’s working to manufacture antennae and data platforms in space. Once the company has a fleet of robotic assembly lines building large platforms — like joining Legos — customers can “plug in” their small satellites.
GLOBAL-FI INSTEAD OF WI-FI
Then, it will work to build a network of cell towers delivering direct-to-smartphone broadband data service called Global-Fi. That will tap into the world’s 2.5 billion smartphone owners.
Glendale-based APIUM Swarm Robotics offers a technology that can manage communication among fleets of autonomous water, air and land vehicles. The platform controls autonomous drones, like those heavily used by the military. It allows the vehicles to communicate with each other to organize behavior as a group. This way, a postal carrier could program a fleet of flying drones to deliver packages throughout a neighborhood and return in an orderly, safe way.
Scope AR of San Francisco overlays technical models and visual instructions on an augmented reality display.
Valencia-based Gamma Alloys developed an aluminum-ceramic metal composite blend that is stronger and more durable than existing similar materials. It’s lighter and stronger than other aluminum alloys, and could therefore lower launch costs, among other things.
Department13 presented a technology that can override drone controls.
“The MESMER software platform uses sophisticated automated detection and mitigation strategies to stop, redirect, land or take control of drones across a range of commercial, national security, and defense scenarios,” according to a company statement.
Delair-Tech of Los Angeles presented its package of drone hardware and software for industrial customers, while Mountain View-based ZingBox sold its data and services security system.
Intelectron Robotics’ industrial “Snake Robot” can inspect and clean aircraft, among other uses.
Urban Aeronautics sought $10 million to develop its flying Cormorant prototype that can “fly anywhere, land anywhere.”