Michigan start-up marries urban planning with aerial drone technology, advances in NY-based contest

The seemingly unlikely partnership between a pair of urban planners and a professional drone pilot has resulted in a unique company that has captured the attention of the state of New York. It's the sort of groundbreaking company that can only be formed at a kitchen table over pizza and red wine.

Urban planners Adrianna Jordan and Daniel Brooks own the Oakland County-based firm Pivot Planning & Design. While enjoying dinner in Jordan's home with friend and professional drone pilot Zachary Halberd, the idea for their new company together, Quantifly, was born. Quantifly employs aerial drone technology to provide unique data sets in parking and traffic study analysis.

"Urban planners, transportation engineers; they've been doing things the same way for more than 50 years," says Jordan. "There hasn't been a lot of innovation in the industry."

Quantifly fills that innovation gap and they're being noticed for it. In just a year, the trio has advanced as finalists in the second round of the GENIUS NY program. Already guaranteed $250,000 in prize money, Quantifly now has the opportunity to win up to $1 million in grand prizes should they win an April event.

The fact that it's New York is an important one. Halberd says that Syracuse, New York, is considered the Silicon Valley of autonomous aerial drone research.

A stipulation of the contest is that the company must move to New York. The state takes a small percentage stake as it invests in the business, too. But for the $250,000 already won, and a shot at $1 million, the trio says it's worth it.

Despite having to move the company to New York, the Quantifly founders will keep some of their operations here in metro Detroit. It's an appropriate place for this type of research, they say.

"For all the work going into autonomous flying vehicles in New York, there's work going into autonomous vehicles here in Detroit," says Brooks. "It goes very well together."

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Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.
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