Mobility, technology companies to test “advanced” products at Ford Airport

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

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

The effort is part of a Ford Launchpad program for innovative technology and entrepreneurship at the airport, 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,” Tori Richardson, president and CEO of Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority, said in press release.

“With thousands of passengers traveling through our airport every day, we can introduce start-ups to a global market by providing them with a vibrant workspace to expand 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; 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 around:

  • Aircraft data aggregation: The company, based in Apple Valley, Minnesota, will use “web-based cloud solutions to provide real-time passenger forecasting.” 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 news release.
  • Data rate: The metro Detroit-based company will test an autonomous vehicle. The company says its focus is on the 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 emergencies or other incidents. “This innovative approach provides significantly increased productivity and cost savings that the commercial operations industry has yet to experience,” according to a MEDC news release.
  • EVA: The Syracuse, N.Y.-based company will retool its drone infrastructure to “revolutionize baggage delivery,” according to a news release. The company’s services include “end-to-end cloud capabilities, quantum key encryption, just-in-time delivery, e-commerce and a logistics marketplace where businesses can meet with 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 track performance.”
  • Observer ID: The Grand Rapids-based company will develop sensor technology to help travelers identify open parking spaces. The company says its products have “the potential to change the way drivers park through its innovative smartphone app, on-site sensors and real-time data.” The idea is for drivers to find a parking space faster.

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