Gerald R Ford International Airport (GRR) Authority in Michigan, US, has unveiled a new scheme called Ford Launchpad for Innovative Technologies and Entrepreneurship (FLITE), which provides grants to companies offering emerging air travel technology solutions.

The scheme has been launched with support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Southwest Airlines.

FLITE has been designed to encourage companies to design, develop and perform trials of new products and services in a live airport environment.

Under the first round, three companies including Aurrigo, WHILL and Sunflower Labs will receive grants of $150,000.

Aurrigo has been selected for its Auto-Sim software platform to create a ‘digital twin’ of airside operations, WHILL for its autonomous mobility device, and Sunflower Labs for its remote autonomous drone-in-a-box security system.

Gerald R Ford International Airport Authority president and CEO Tory Richardson said: “The Ford International Airport has long been an economic catalyst for West Michigan.

“FLITE enables us to harness that power and partner with entrepreneurs and established companies focused on developing innovative new products and services to improve air travel and foster a statewide ecosystem for innovation, entrepreneurship and tech-sector growth.”

Additionally, Grand Rapids-based Seamless has agreed to support the FLITE scheme and offer proof of concept coordination for grantees while Stantec Generation AV will provide its experience in AV planning and deployment, including safety verification.

An advisory committee has also been created to offer guidance and evaluation of the technology applications.

The members include Edmonton (Canada) International Airport, Nashville International Airport, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, San Antonio International Airport, San Diego International Airport, Tampa International Airport, the US Air Force and Vantage Airport Group.

Through FLITE, Ford International Airport will focus on six key areas, which include security, automation, smart infrastructure, data analytics, safety and hold room of the future.

Ford International Airport also intends to increase the financial support of FLITE by adding sponsors and venture capital firms.