Cutting Edge Mobility Technologies Coming to Gerald R. Ford International Airport through State-Industry Collaboration

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Solutions include drones to support baggage delivery, autonomous mowers, and new technology to help passengers find open parking spots

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), together with Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority, Southwest Airlines® and Stantec GenerationAV, has announced a second group of companies that will receive a total of $145,500 in grant funding through the Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technologies and Entrepreneurship (FLITE).

FLITE, which first launched in January 2022, provides grants and testing opportunities to companies focused on bringing emerging air travel solutions to market. The five latest recipients will complete pilot testing and development of new products and services in the West Michigan-based Gerald R. International Airport. The second round of recipients include:

  • Aircraft Data Fusion: Utilizing web-based cloud solutions to provide real-time passenger forecasting.
  • Dataspeed: Revolutionizing aviation operations with the Kinetic360 Autonomous Service Vehicle.
  • EVA: Retooling EVA’s drone infrastructure to provide airport services to revolutionize baggage delivery.
  • Renu Robotics: Revolutionizing the way aviation facilities conduct vegetation management with autonomous lawn mowers.
  • Spotter: Developing innovative sensor technology to help travelers identify open parking spots.

“Michigan continues to stay on the forefront of high-tech mobility innovation, thanks in part to programs like FLITE and these entrepreneurial companies, which are helping to diversify our state’s mobility stake past the automobile,” said Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer for the State of Michigan. “In order to secure a truly sustainable and multifaceted mobility future, it is critical that we foster this innovation. I’m extremely proud of the progress of the FLITE program, and I’m equally as excited about what the future holds.”

The FLITE initiative aligns next-generation infrastructure as a center point to generate collaboration among mobility-focused stakeholders. It serves as a catalyst for private investment in Michigan’s infrastructure to spark job creation, create long-term revenue streams, generate new private investment, and attract more talent to the region. In May 2022, the first cohort of grant recipients demonstrated their successfully proven solutions to federal and state officials, as well as regional businesses and community leaders.

“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,” said Tory Richardson, President and CEO of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority. “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.”

Aircraft Data Fusion, based in Apple Valley, Minnesota, 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. The organization works under the guiding principle that effective and efficient airline/airport operations can be achieved only when there is alignment between strategic goals and the daily business operations that support them.

“Being a part of FLITE allows us to test our innovation lab framework in a live airport environment, creating the foundation and road map for future digital transformation initiatives for the air transport industry,” said Kasey Herzberg, Director of Engineering for Aircraft Data Fusion. “Exploring data visualization using real-time forecasting we bring together a view of business and operations intelligence to validate industry assumptions and determine best practices for operational efficiencies.”

Dataspeed, located in Metro Detroit, Michigan, provides complete autonomous research and development vehicle integrations that allow engineers to quickly establish their algorithm, sensor, or data research. Dataspeed’s industrial-grade by-wire solutions form the foundation of these platforms. Dataspeed developed its Kinetic360 Autonomous Service Vehicle (K360) to provide 24/7 facility operations support on a full-size vehicle. K360 is fully automated but also interactive for operations personnel when incidents or emergencies occur. This innovative approach provides significantly increased performance and cost savings that the commercial operations industry has yet to experience.

“As a Michigan-based company, Dataspeed is thrilled that Gerald R. Ford International Airport will be our first pilot customer for the Kinetic360 Autonomous Service Vehicle,” said David Agnew, Vice President of Business Development at Dataspeed. “The FLITE program is an ideal path forward because it not only aligns us with a market need, but it provides the opportunity for exposure and feedback from the larger group of program sponsors and advisory board.”

EVA, based in Syracuse, New York, has the largest drone infrastructure on the market, with more than eight stations, allowing transportation of payloads up to 250 kilos. The services provided 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.

“Airports are essential to connecting people to the world or transporting goods wherever needed. New airborne ecosystems from the past decade also transport goods, and soon people, through unmanned autonomous systems or drones. Very few initiatives, however, work on the integration of these two ecosystems for a more efficient first, middle and last mile,” said Olivier Le Lann, CEO of EVA. “EVA was very interested in the proposed project at FLITE because it addresses one of the key challenges – and opportunities – of this century for transporting people and goods. We will demonstrate through different use cases how goods can be dispatched seamlessly, and how the airport user experience can be enhanced.”

Renu Robotics, Renu Robotics, based in San Antonio, Texas, is the industry leader in autonomous vegetation management systems. The company specializes in utility-scale solar plants and autonomous vegetation management. With a one-of-a-kind incorporated Mission Control Center, Renu Robotics’ models continuously monitor, control and send updates in the field, while allowing access on specific mobile screens to track performance.

"Renu Robotics continues to grow and we're excited about the opportunity to enter into the airport marketplace," said Tim Matus, CEO of Renu. "With FLITE allowing us to place the Renubot in a live airport setting, it gives us the chance to show the industry how the Renubot's state-of-the-art technology makes it safe, reliable and efficient in an active environment.”

Spotter ID, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has the potential to change how drivers park through its innovative smartphone application, on-location sensors, and real-time data. Spotter ID can decrease the time, fuel, and emissions it takes for drivers to find an open parking spot and significantly decrease traffic in cities. Spotter ID can also help parking ramps attract more customers by not only showing customers where parking is available, but also by offering a unique experience.

“FLITE provides Spotter ID the opportunity to verify that the status of the parking spot is updated in the cloud,” said Vishnu Mano, Founder and CEO of Spotter ID. “The partnership with Ford International Airport allows an ongoing environment where cars come and go allowing the opportunity for validation of the software.”

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport has identified six core focus areas for new technology advancements through FLITE:

  • Automation & Analytics: Improving operational efficiency and optimization of workforce and other resources through automation and analysis of data
  • Safety + Security: Strengthening passenger and worker safety and security throughout the airport campus
  • Enhanced Guest Experience: Improving the pre-boarding experience
  • Sustainability: Switching fossil fuel vehicles and infrastructure to electrics and other decarbonization projects
  • Door to Door Experience: Improve the experience and efficiency of getting to and from the airport
  • Advancing Aviation: Exploring the enabling infrastructure and implications of emerging commercial aviation use cases

Applications for the FLITE program are accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed every three months. Any companies interested in helping to shape the future of air travel should submit an application here for consideration.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.