Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority, in collaboration with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Seamless Ventures, Southwest Airlines and the West Michigan Aviation Academy, has announced the fifth cohort of companies set to receive more than $200,000 in total grant funding through the Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technologies and Entrepreneurship (FLITE).
“We’re delighted to welcome these dynamic companies that are at the forefront of pioneering innovative technologies shaping the future of air travel,” said Tory Richardson, President and CEO, Ford International Airport Authority. “These companies will help to elevate the passenger experience and enhance airport operations, ensuring the continuous evolution of the aviation industry.”
FLITE focuses on the transformation of aviation by providing grant funding and pilot testing opportunities to companies focused on bringing emerging air travel technologies and solutions to market. The companies participating in this round include:
- Cybernet Systems Corporation: advances operational efficiencies through military and commercial products, prototypes and services.
- Prospect Airport Services: provides air transportation services and mobility assistance to partners and passengers.
- Snowbotix: develops electric robots designed for various outdoor tasks like snow removal, sidewalk cleaning, vegetation control and more.
The companies will pilot test their technologies at Gerald R. Ford International Airport from February to April this year.
Cybernet Systems Corporation will assess its collision avoidance technology during manual and autonomous operation of its ground handling equipment when navigating around aircraft and the airport’s restricted zones.
Prospect Airport Services will evaluate the physical specifications, performance and integration of passenger service vehicles from three autonomous technology companies, including Alba Robot, Blueberry Technology Inc, and Cyberworks Robotics.
“Prospect Airport Services is excited to partner with FLITE as we explore the most recent and exciting developments in airport mobility assistance in many years,” said Tim Fisher, Director, Prospect Airport Services. “This project will allow the airport, air carriers and Prospect to evaluate the feasibility of long-term commercial deployment in our drive to provide an improved experience to those who utilise these services.”
Snowbotix will test its new multi-utility robots, SMUR1, evaluating its speed and effectiveness for snow removal operations. It will also assess its de-icing application and ability to transition to summer tasks like sweeping. Snowbotix will focus on analysing the robots’ effect on airport traffic, communication with maintenance, coordination with human crews and long-term cost savings.
To date, FLITE has provided support to more than 20 companies, awarding more than $750,000 in total grant funds across five rounds. The six core focus areas for new technology advancements through FLITE include:
- Automation & Analytics: improving operational efficiency and optimisation of workforce and other resources through automation and analysis of data.
- Electrification & Sustainability: switching fossil fuel vehicles and infrastructure to electrics and other decarbonisation projects.
- Safety & Security: strengthening passenger and worker safety and security throughout the airport campus.
- Door-to-Door & Terminal Guest Experience: improving the efficiency of getting to and from the airport and improving the pre-boarding experience.
- Advancing Aviation: exploring the enabling infrastructure and implications of emerging commercial aviation use cases.
Applications for round six of FLITE are being accepted now until 30 June 2024 at michiganbusiness.org/mobility-funding.