Mobility, tech companies to test ‘cutting edge’ products at Ford Airport

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Five companies will test aviation products, from autonomous service vehicles to services designed to improve baggage delivery, at Gerald R. Ford International Airport as part of a program designed to spur innovation and entrepreneurship.

The companies are sharing a $145,500 state grant designed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Ford Airport, Southwest Airlines and Stantec GenerationV, according to a press release from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The effort is part of a program at the airport’s Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technologies and Entrepreneurship, also known as FLITE.

“We are excited to partner with this next round of companies through FLITE to offer them the opportunity to test their products in a real airport environment,” said Tory Richardson, President and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. a press release.

“With thousands of passengers traveling through our airport every day, we can introduce startup companies to a global market, providing them with a vibrant workspace to scale their air travel technology solutions to further enhance the guest experience.”

This is at least the second batch of companies to test their products at the airport through the FLITE program. In January, MEDC announced three companies — UK-based Aurrigo; Japan-based WHILL? and Switzerland-based Sunflower Labs — each received $50,000 to test an autonomous wheelchair, a digital mapping program and an outdoor security drone.

Here’s a look at the five companies that will be testing products at the airport this time:

  • Aircraft Data Fusion: The company, based in Apple Valley, Minnesota, will use “web-based cloud solutions to provide real-time passenger forecasts.” The company was founded in 2001 by “airline industry veterans who use their decades of experience to solve challenges related to information overload and the timely use of critical data,” according to a press release.
  • Data speed: The company, based in metro Detroit, will test an autonomous service vehicle. The company says it is focused on research and development of autonomous vehicles, and that the vehicle it will test at the airport is fully automated but also interactive in case of emergency or other incidents. “This innovative approach provides significantly increased efficiency and cost savings not yet experienced by the commercial operations industry,” according to a MEDC press release.
  • EVA: The company, based in Syracuse, New York, will revamp its drone infrastructure to “revolutionize baggage delivery,” according to a press release. The company’s services include “extreme cloud capability, quantum key encryption, just-in-time delivery, e-commerce and a logistics marketplace where businesses can meet drone operators to transport goods and more.”
  • Renu Robotics: The company, based in San Antonio, Texas, will test autonomous lawn mowers. The company says its vehicles “continuously monitor, control and send updates on the ground, while allowing access to specific mobile screens to monitor performance.”
  • Spotter ID: The company, based in Grand Rapids, will develop sensor technology to help travelers locate open parking spots. The company says its products have “the potential to change the way drivers park through an innovative smartphone app, location sensors and real-time data.” The idea is to help drivers find a parking space faster.

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