GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Five companies will test aviation products ranging from autonomous company cars 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 are sharing a $145,500 state grant developed 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 the airport’s Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technology and Entrepreneurship, also known as FLITE.
“We are excited to partner with the next round of companies through FLITE to offer them the opportunity to experience their products in a real-world airport environment,” said Tory Richardson, president and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. press release.
“With thousands of passengers traveling through our airport every day, we can bring startup companies to the global market, giving them 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; WHILL, based in Japan; and Switzerland’s Sunflower Labs – each received 50 thousand dollars to test an autonomous wheelchair, a digital imaging program and an outdoor safety drone.
Here’s a look at five companies that will be testing products at the airport this time around:
- Merge aircraft data: The company, based in Apple Valley, Minnesota, will use “cloud-based web solutions for real-time passenger forecasting.” The company was founded in 2001 by “airline veterans who use their decades of experience to solve the challenges of information overload and the timely use of critical data,” according to a press release.
- Data transfer rate: The metro Detroit-based company will be testing an autonomous company vehicle. The company says its focus is on research and development of autonomous vehicles, and that the vehicle it will be testing at the airport is fully automated but also interactive in case of emergencies or other incidents. “This innovative approach delivers significant productivity gains and cost savings never before experienced by the commercial operations industry,” MEDC said in a press release.
- EVA: The Syracuse, N.Y.-based company will retool its drone infrastructure to “revolutionize baggage delivery,” according to a press release. The company’s services include “edge cloud capability, quantum key encryption, just-in-time delivery, e-commerce and a logistics marketplace where businesses can meet with drone operators to deliver goods and more.”
- Renu Robotics: The company, based in San Antonio, Texas, will test autonomous lawn mowers. The company says its vehicles “continuously monitor, monitor and send updates to the field while allowing access to specific mobile screens to track performance.”
- Watcher 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 using an innovative smartphone app, on-site sensors and real-time data.” The idea is to help drivers find a parking space faster.