Mobility, technology companies to test ‘cutting edge’ products at Ford airport


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

The companies are splitting a $145,500 state grant designed 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 program at the airport’s Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technologies and Entrepreneurship, also known as FLITE.

“We are thrilled to partner with this next round of companies through FLITE to offer them the opportunity to test their products in a real-world airport environment,” Tory Richardson, President and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority, said in 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, the MEDC announced three companies — U.K.-based Aurrigo; Japan-based WHILL; and Switzerland-based Sunflower Labs — were receiving $50,000 each 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, from now through December, at the airport this time around:

  • Aircraft Data Fusion: The company, based in Apple Valley, Minnesota, will be using “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.
  • Dataspeed: The company, based in metro Detroit, will be testing an autonomous service 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 the event emergencies or other incidents occur. “This innovative approach provides significantly increased performance and cost savings that the commercial operations industry has yet to experience,” according to an MEDC news release.
  • EVA: The company, based in Syracuse, New York, will be retooling 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 drone operators to transport goods and more.”
  • Renu Robotics: The company, based in San Antonio, Texas, will be testing autonomous lawn mowers. The company says its vehicles “continuously monitor, control and send updates in the field, while allowing access on specific mobile screens to track performance.”
  • Spotter ID: The company, based in Grand Rapids, will be developing sensor technology to help travelers identify open parking spots. The company says its products have “the potential to change how drivers park through its innovative smartphone application, on-location sensors, and real-time data.” The idea is to help drivers find a parking spot more quickly.