Willow Run Startup Vayu Secures Innovate Ypsi Funding to Attract Talent, Capital

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Drone Company Ann Arbor

With support from the Innovate Ypsi grant from Ann Arbor SPARK, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) company Vayu was able to produce a promotional video to attract and recruit key talent as well as additional outside funding. The $10,000 Innovate Ypsi performance-based grant will help the company achieve its hiring and manufacturing goals.  With the Innovate Ypsi grant funding, SPARK’s partners at Washtenaw County have shown a commitment to helping grow the region’s businesses, and our economy.

Vayu, which is based at Willow Run Airport, is a two-year old startup. Vayu currently has 12 employees and expects to add an additional four employees in the coming year. Vayu is the first startup company to secure Innovate Ypsi funding.

“We chose to make our home at Willow Run Airport from our earliest days. The expansive space is affordable and safe, and everyone around here is so friendly and helpful. Plus, repurposing a hangar once used for fabricating World War II-era bombers to develop the next-generation of long-range medical delivery drones? You can’t beat that,” said Daniel Pepper, Vayu founder.

“Ann Arbor SPARK has supported Vayu in its growth by providing access to critical marketing resources," Pepper added.

Vayu’s first UAV features a unique design that enables vertical takeoff and transition to flight as a fixed-wing airplane. Its range is six times greater than a typical UAV’s, with greatly increased payload.

“Having this impressive innovation based at Willow Run is a win for this region,” said Paul Krutko, president and CEO of Ann Arbor SPARK. “Vayu represents the next generation of transportation that’s evolving right here in this region; the company’s Willow Run location perfectly compliments the work we envision happening in the auto industry at the American Center for Mobility. One aspect of that vision, for example, is how ground-based connected and autonomous vehicles can effectively interface with UAVs.”

The Innovate Ypsi incentive program is designed to provide grants, loans, and other economic assistance to businesses that create jobs and investment in Ypsilanti. The performance-based grants are available to qualified businesses that create qualified jobs and make new investment in Eastern Washtenaw County. The funds can be used for a variety of expenses, including marketing and business development, product development, and talent relocation and recruitment.