A climbing Kansas City startup could save lives by bridging technology gaps in air travel, said Kashif Hasnie.
“Collisions are among the top causes of aircraft accidents in the world,” explained Hasnie, CEO of Air Traffic Awareness.
First launched as a class project at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Air Traffic Awareness has developed patent-pending, in-flight tech — in line with Federal Aviation Administration-mandated Automatic Dependent Surveillance–broadcast (ADS-B) technology — that helps private pilots who lack fancy bells and whistles, steer clear of collisions via real-time aircraft display on any mobile device and without WiFi, radar, or expensive equipment.
Currently, pilots of small planes have to physically check their surroundings to see if there are other aircrafts nearby, leading to dangerous inefficiencies mid-flight, Hasnie said.
“It’s like driving a car. … When you’re reversing, turning left or right, you have to move your head to see if somebody is coming,” he said.
“We have come up with a device that can inform pilots of their surroundings better.”
Proving the company’s worth, Air Traffic Awareness was recently accepted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technologies (MIT) Enterprise Forum at Cambridge — a first for a Kansas City-based company, Hasnie explained.
“This is a huge thing. The problem and the solution has to be global,” he said. “MIT’s aero-astro [program] is No. 1 in the world, along with Caltech [the California Institute of Technology], so we’re looking forward to a very, very exciting year.”
Click here to learn more about Air Traffic Awareness.
A veteran of the Kansas City startup scene with ties to the Kansas City Startup Village, the west coast and several startup exits, Hasnie joined Air Traffic Awareness earlier this year, hopeful the startup could shatter records and set examples similar to the sale of EyeVerify to Alibaba, he said.
“There has been a lot of hoopla [since] — a lot of noise, but nothing big,” Hasnie candidly said of the current state of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the years after the EyeVerify exit.
While such words might sound harsh, Hasnie says them with care and concern, he stressed.
“There’s a lot of effort there, but I think we lack the educational and institutional prowess. … I think intellectually we are way behind even tier two, tier three [cities],” he added.
Hasnie’s sentiments come from a place of understanding his company has yet to prove itself and are instead offered as a call to action within the startup ecosystem and are meant to serve as an honest take on its progress, he added.
“Not much was happening until I met the three geeks,” he laughed, referencing the nickname he’s given his startup’s co-founders — affectionately dubbed “three geeks and a guru” — and their vision for a solution-driven startup that serves an untapped market.
The geographic location of the city could also prove to strengthen the reach of Air Traffic Awareness, Hasnie said.
“I consider [Kansas City] as part of the greater part of Wichita, which is the air capital of the world. And we have a tremendous amount of innovation and a critical mass of scholarships within the area,” he said, noting the impact of aviation and aerospace programs at Wichita State University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Missouri.
“It’s fantastic to thrive in this area,” he added. “I sometimes think and say this is the Silicon Valley of aviation.”
The right place at the right time, Hasnie is eager to hit the ground running with Air Traffic Awareness and hopes the company can challenge and ultimately help the local ecosystem spread its wings and reach new heights.
“This whole startup is for Kansas City,” he said. “We wanted to do something for Kansas City. I wanted to give back because I love it, to tell you the truth.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.