Mobility, tech companies will test ‘state-of-the-art’ products at Ford airport

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

The companies are splitting the $145,500 government grant from Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Ford airport, Southwest Airlines, and Stantec GenerationV, according to a report from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

This 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 these new tour companies through FLITE to offer them the opportunity to test their products in a real-world airport environment,” said Tory Richardson, President and CEO of Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. A press release.

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

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

Take a look at the five companies that will be testing products at the airport this time around:

  • Aircraft Data Fusion: Based in Apple Valley, Minnesota, the company will use “web-based cloud solutions to provide real-time passenger forecasting.” According to a news release, the company was founded in 2001 by “airline industry veterans who use their decades of experience to solve the challenges associated with information overload and the timely use of critical data.”
  • Data rate: The Metro Detroit-based company will test an autonomous shuttle vehicle. The company says its focus is on the research and development of autonomous vehicles, and the vehicle it will test at the airport is fully automated but interactive when emergencies or other events occur. “This innovative approach provides significantly increased performance and cost savings that the commercial operations industry has yet to experience,” according to a MEDC news release.
  • EVA: The Syracuse, New York-based company will reshape its drone infrastructure to “revolutionize baggage delivery,” according to a news release. The company’s services include “edge cloud capability, quantum key encryption, on-time delivery, e-commerce, and a logistics marketplace where businesses can meet with drone operators to transport goods and more.”
  • Renu Robotics: The San Antonio, Texas-based company will test autonomous lawnmowers. The company says its tools are “continuous monitoring, checking, and sending updates in the field, and allowing access to certain mobile screens to monitor performance.”
  • Watcher ID: The Grand Rapids-based company will develop sensor technology to help passengers identify open parking spaces. The company says its products have “the potential to change the way drivers park through innovative smartphone app, location sensors and real-time data.” The idea is to help drivers find a parking spot faster.

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