Technology aimed at creating safer travel for small aircraft and their occupants was the innovative idea that captured first place in the recent 2020 Clemson University MBAe EnterPrize competition.

Corey Benson next to plane

Corey Benson’s small-aircraft app earned him first place in the MBA EnterPrize competition.
Image Credit: Submitted

An app created by Clemson native Corey Benson, MBAe ’20, was awarded the $15,000 first-place prize in the MBA program’s 8th annual “Shark Tank-like” EnterPrize competition. It included events in Charleston, Columbia and the finale in Greenville. More than $26,000 in prize money was awarded at the three competitions.

Greg Pickett, College of Business associate dean and director of the MBA program, said this year’s event was as competitive as ever, despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

“Although this year’s competition was virtual due to COVID-19, the start-up ideas presented were as strong as any we have seen since EnterPrize launched in 2013, and the competition was unbelievably strong this year.”

Airworthy, the start-up business and app that Corey presented, along with nearly 30 other participants in the MBAe competition, has shown an ability through testing to provide small-aircraft pilots real-time warnings currently not available in most smaller aircraft. In simulator testing, Airworthy has shown to be effective in warning pilots on fuel consumption, altitude and heading deviations and stalls.

“This year, the Federal Aviation Administration mandated a change in how air traffic control tracks aircraft from being radar based to being GPS based,” the 2016 mechanical engineering Clemson graduate said. “Now, pilots carry GPS receivers on board for tracking purposes. Airworthy makes a wireless connection to those receivers through cell phones and I-pads and provides a safety features that until now has primarily been available in commercial aircraft.”

Airworthy is a subscription-based app that Corey, himself a licensed pilot, says today would benefit about 250,000 pilots nationwide, mostly student pilots, or those with low flight-time hours.

Airworthy app on cockpit yolk

The Airworthy app warns pilots of small planes about pending fuel, heading, altitude or stall issues.
Image Credit: Submitted

“The app’s focus is definitely on situational awareness and would be useful for training purposes and provide cockpit assistance for the less experienced pilots,” the former aviation mechanic said. “Research shows the market this app would serve is worth about $5 billion. Our goal is to prevent more than 200 accidents per year with this technology.”

According to Corey, nearly 90 percent of small aircraft aren’t equipped with tools that accurately detect dangerous situations, such as angle of attack indicators, which identify potential loss of aircraft control.

“I lost a friend in an aviation accident and have been in a situation myself as a pilot that this kind of warning system would have helped me navigate. Flying in the clouds, inclement weather and on long-distance flights, a pilot can become disoriented and unknowingly lose altitude,” he said. “Our simulator testing has shown the app to be very effective in detecting and communicating dangerous situations. Our next step is to test it in flight.”

Other Greenville EnterPrize winners included:

-2nd place ($3,000): Joseph Dyches, P.E., P.L.S., Carolina Engineering and Surveying, LLC — Joseph’s business innovates the land surveying process through the use of drone-mounted LiDAR sensors which can reduce field time for topographic surveys dramatically. The high-quality data combined with expert analysis and processing can help clients save significant time and money during the land development and construction process.

-3rd place ($2,000): Chelsea Fulton, The Write Way – The Write Way is a digitized hand-writing process using robotic machines to provide personalized notes, letters and cards in a fraction of the time that it takes a person to write one. The savvy robotic hand-writing machines can hold a variety of pens and use an algorithm to move the pens in the strokes used to write each letter. Chelsea’s start-up has already established solid business connections in several industries, including alumni associations and service businesses.

The Greenville EnterPrize competition judges included: Neil Johnson, founder of Genco; Harold Hughes, founder/CEO of Bandwagon; David Grisell, Super Angel at VentureSouth; Shontavia Johnson, assistant vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation, Clemson University; Jenna Spencer, founder/CEO of AssistPro; Jessica Cokins, director of product marketing, Thorne Research.

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