Over $200,000 in Grant Funds Awarded to Companies Revolutionizing the Aviation Industry
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., January 24, 2024 –The 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, 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, or 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 Ford International Airport Authority’s President and CEO Tory Richardson. "These companies will help to elevate the passenger experience and enhance airport operations, ensuring the continuous evolution of the aviation industry."
As one of the nation's first airport-based programs, FLITE focuses on propelling 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.
As Michigan’s lead advocate for business development, job awareness, and community development with a focus on growing the local economy, the MEDC has played a pivotal role in fostering innovation. Through the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME), the MEDC has provided grant funding to support the companies participating in FLITE, to further the program’s mission and drive advancements in Michigan's vibrant mobility and technology sectors.
“We are thrilled to announce an increased commitment of $500,000 to the FLITE program, underscoring our dedication to fostering innovation in air travel technology,” said Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer Justine Johnson. “This program has already shown tremendous success in bringing cutting-edge solutions to market, and with this latest round of grant recipients, we are poised to accelerate these efforts even further. Michigan remains at the forefront of mobility and technology, and the ongoing achievements of the FLITE program are a testament to our state's pioneering spirit in these sectors.”
The companies will pilot test their technologies at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport from February to April of 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 leading 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 Prospect Airport Services’ Director Tim Fisher. “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 utilize these services.”
Snowbotix will test their new multi-utility robots, SMUR1, evaluating its speed and effectiveness for snow removal operations. They'll also assess its de-icing application and ability to transition to summer tasks like sweeping. Snowbotix will focus on analyzing 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 optimization of workforce and other resources through automation and analysis of data.
- Electrification & Sustainability: Switching fossil fuel vehicles and infrastructure to electrics and other decarbonization 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 through June 30, 2024 at michiganbusiness.org/mobility-funding.
About the Gerald R. Ford International Airport
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport is the second busiest airport in Michigan, serving business and leisure travelers with nonstop and connecting flights on six airlines. The Ford International Airport is managed and operated by the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. For more information, visit www.flyford.org or follow the airport on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram @FlyGRFord.
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