Kelly Zwarych quips that he is "over the moon" when he talks about the latest recognition his company, AeroLab Technology, has received. That's because in May the Calgary-based firm made the top 25 semifinalists list in NASA iTech's competition for startup disruptive technologies. Even more importantly, it was the only Canadian company to make the list, joining an elite list of tech firms from around the world.

"Everyone knows NASA for leading high tech. To make this list gives us extra credibility and global exposure," says Zwarych, AeroLab's CEO and co-founder.

AeroLAB CEO Kelly Zwarych
Kelly Zwarych

It's the latest recognition for AeroLab, an aerodynamics technology innovator founded four years ago by Zwarych and Chris Morton, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Calgary.

Both avid cyclists, the two have developed cutting-edge technology for high performance cycling. Smaller than a cell phone, the multi-sensor device fits onto a bike to measure aerodynamic gains and losses in real time.  Using the information, cyclists can adjust body position and equipment to move faster.

Since testing was completed last year, AeroLab's multi-sensor system has caught the eye of cycling teams and federations.  AeroLab has started work with USA Cycling, and has been approached by Japan's cycling federation. With this early success, the company plans to commercially launch a product for performance cycling later this year.

At the same time, AeroLab is looking to market an adapted form of its cycling sensors to a number of high growth industries.  

"The technology can be applied to a variety of tasks, including providing condition monitoring for unmanned aircraft and heavy transport to increase performance, improve stability and reduce fuel consumption," says Morton, who is also AeroLab's vice president of product development.

So far, the company is partnering with a Canadian aerospace company to incorporate their sensors into long-range unmanned aircraft. It's also in discussions to implement the technology into autonomous large truck transport.

As a startup, AeroLab's focus is to gain a secure foothold in these growth markets. And to do that, it's getting help from Alberta Innovates. Since 2016, the startup has worked closely with the agency to assess market opportunities.  It's also received funding support. Last year, for instance, Alberta Innovates funding enabled the startup to develop product field prototypes to test market interest.

"Alberta Innovates has been strategic in supporting us. Learning about our technology and its potential, Alberta Innovates was able to guide us to reduce our time to commercialization by a year or more," Zwarych says.