St. Louis drone startup selected to join elite space program


ST. LOUIS (KMOV) — A metro startup has been selected for an elite space accelerator program.

St. Louis-based company WingXpand was chosen out of 600 international companies to join the “Techstars” program in Los Angeles.

The program focuses on aerospace technology, partnering with organizations such as the US Space Force and NASA.

Co-founder Michelle Madaras says the company works with fire and police departments, as well as other consumers, where a drone would be used in response situations.

“Which is within the realm of the possible,” Madaras says. “Let’s really push those boundaries and design this thing and implement it in a way that will open up new possibilities.”

The drone created by WingXpand can fly for two and a half hours, compared to other drones that can fly for about 20 minutes. WingXpand’s drone can also carry more weight, allowing it to use cameras with better technology.

“Not just collecting videos, but doing things up to measuring, counting for crops and the health of those crops,” says Madaras.

WingXpand started in April 2022. Co-founder James Barbieri says he recognized a problem in the industry because drones were being transported inconveniently.

The drone created by WingXpand develops from a backpack, with a 7-foot extendable wing.

“It really is the most powerful drone you can fit in the smallest, easiest-to-use footprint,” Barbieri says.

Barbieri says they carry their St. Louis pride with them to Los Angeles and he wants other local entrepreneurs to know that St. Louis is a city full of potential.

“Dreams are possible, so if you have an idea, if you’re passionate about building new things, building great things, keep going and you’ll get there,” Barbieri says. “The main thing is perseverance and tenacity.”

Madaras and Barbieri will be in Los Angeles for the program until December.

Upon their return to St. Louis, they will continue to work on the product and increase manufacturing to get the drone into the hands of consumers.


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