FLITE’s Journey

Background

In 2012, Dan Cohen spent some time as the Chief Technology Officer of a company that made electronic noses – devices that sensed mixtures of gases in industrial environments. We were looking for a way to prevent the buildup of residue on the sensors, since they were exposed to very harsh environments. Despite a review of coating technologies at the time, no solution was found.

In 2015, Dan was working on a portfolio of very early stage medical technologies, and found out all the ways that diagnostic and surgical devices could fail in the body from clotting, blockages and other problems.

Origin Story

In 2016, Dan was the Chief Technology Officer of a startup that made solar structures (www.isuntechnologies.com). As part of the cycle of innovation, we were looking for a way to keep ice, snow and frost off solar panels and change the economics of solar energy generation in northern environments. The coatings we found were less than ideal – they would obscure the panel, or require regular re-application, or were terribly toxic (and a poor complement to an otherwise green technology).

In 2017, we found the work of Professor Chunlei Guo at the University of Rochester’s Institute of Optics. He claimed that his patented techniques could keep ice, snow and even morning dew off of the panels – and the structure – without any coatings. While it seemed counterintuitive, he did indeed demonstrate the ability to deliver this effect on metal and glass – even changing the color! – at a rate of about 1 in2 per hour. We were introduced to this technology and it opened a world of possibilities, and we asked the University for a license to pursue commercial applications. Cargo ship hulls without toxic paints, deicing aircraft without glycol sprays – we were not disappointed at the array of possible uses.

In 2018, FLITE spent time talking to folks in the aviation industry, the aluminum industry and other sectors as we explored the potential benefits. In September we were accepted into the CENTECH Accelerator in Montreal in their first aerospace cohort.

In 2019, FLITE was accepted into the Techstars Accelerator program with the US Air Force in Boston. We were introduced to the world of SBIR and STTR funding for startups as the Air Force AFWERX began incubating startups that could provide benefits to its airmen and the service at large. We secured our first SBIR award and spoke to the US Army, Special Forces, and the prime contractors that served them.

In 2020, the team expanded and so did our reach, as we looked at new technologies to license into our portfolio from sources like the Air Force Labs, the HiLASE Institute, and other institutions. We were accepted into the FreeElectrons accelerator and the Joules Accelerator to introduce us to the innovation scouting teams at electricity transmission and distribution companies around the world.

Other highlights from 2020 include the RICE Energy Tech Ventures event, introducing FLITE to international oil and gas companies, winning Best in Show at the Society for Petroleum Engineers ATCC event, and placing 2nd in the Entrepreneurship World Cup in Dubai, a competition with more than 1650,000 entries from 100 countries.