The University of North Dakota is testing agricultural aerial imagery applications with drones. (UND Photo) Microsoft has awarded a $100,000 TechSpark grant to support , a brand-new startup that’s partnering with the University of North Dakota Aerospace Foundation to blaze a trail for drone applications in North Dakota’s “Silidrone Valley.” The seed money unlocks nearly $570,000 in additional funding for Airtonomy from local investors, Microsoft . “TechSpark saw the drone innovation in North Dakota’s Red River Valley that is driving exciting advances for the U.S. drone industry and wanted to be a part of it,” said Kate Behncken, general manager of Global Community Engagement at Microsoft. “This cutting-edge project has the potential to increase crop yields and boost the production of renewable energy through safe drone advancements created locally, leading to greater economic opportunities for North Dakotans.” North Dakota is one of the six states targeted by T, a Microsoft civic program created in 2017 to boost economic opportunities in rural areas and small communities. (The other states are Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.) “Microsoft’s TechSpark support represents a significant opportunity for a startup like ours that wants to innovate and create jobs here in our community,” said Airtonomy CEO Josh Riedy. “It gives confidence to others to back our work, providing the jump-start for us to develop a platform that can drive the next evolution in how drones are used commercially.” Airtonomy is combining drone technology and artificial intelligence to help clients in agriculture, energy and public safety realize the benefits of aerial imagery provided by multi-drone systems. The venture take advantage of North Dakota’s leading role as a testbed for drone operations. The Red River Valley has been dubbed the Silicon Valley of unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, thanks to the region’s open spaces, clear skies and the leading roles played by the University of North Dakota and the “UND Aerospace has a long history of providing leadership in aerospace innovation and economic diversification by supporting projects that advance the UAS sector and increase high-tech services in the Grand Forks region,” said UND Aerospace Foundation CEO Chuck Pineo. North Dakota’s Department of Transportation is for extended drone operations, including flying drones after dark and beyond an operator’s line of sight. A estimated the drone industry’s annual economic impact at more than a billion dollars, and said that figure could rise to as much as $46 billion by 2026.
Everett Memorial Stadium north of Seattle is now Funko Field. (Flickr Photo / Chase N) The Seattle Mariners will be playing in a hometown stadium with a new name this season, and so will the team’s Class A affiliate up north. , the Everett, Wash.-based makers of pop culture products, announced that Funko Field will be the newly named home for the Everett Aquasox minor league baseball team. Funko bought the naming rights for the next six years, and will add signage around the stadium and branding on ballpark staff uniforms. The that the deal will cost the company up to $1.1 million and required approval of the Everett School Board. (Funko Image) “Funko has been a prominent fixture in the community since moving to downtown Everett,” Brian Mariotti, chief executive officer of Funko said in a news release. “Our commitment to the community and our employees has never wavered. This partnership is a terrific opportunity to further engage with our fans and neighbors by cheering on the home team together.” The company said Friday home games will be designated “Funko Fridays,” and will include promotions and giveaways for AquaSox ticket holders. The Herald said a 15-foot figurine will be featured in right field. Funko is well known as the creators of Pop! collectibles, the figurines with wide eyes that capture the likenesses of characters across the pop culture spectrum. The company went public in 2017 and near $825 million in 2019. called Funko stock “a steal” in recent comments. Funko Field opening day is June 21, when the AquaSox meet the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. In Seattle, the Mariners will be playing at T-Mobile Park staring on March 28. The Bellevue, Wash.-based wireless carrier bought naming rights after a 20-year-deal with Safeco Insurance came to an end.