Austin-area companies now have a dedicated space where they can test and develop robots and drones.
The Center for Autonomous Robotics, a co-working space and testing facility, is a partnership between Austin accelerator and incubator Capital Factory and Austin drone company Guinn Partners. The center, which formally opened over the weekend as part of this year’s South by Southwest event, is designed to have everything a company in the robotics sector would need to develop devices for air, ground or water uses.
Capital Factory celebrated the center’s debut Sunday with launch party showcasing robots and drones. The center will also be open Monday with panels and demonstrations on both days.
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In a statement announcing the center’s launch, Capital Factory CEO Joshua Baer said iteration – trying processes or operations repeatedly to get closer and closer to the desired goal – is necessary for innovation.
“You have to try, fail and try again as quickly as possible,” Baer said. “If you want to innovate with drones and robots, you need to be in a location where you can easily test your designs over and over.”
The center includes an area where drones can take off and fly, a lawn area where ground robots can be tested and a lake area to launch underwater and surface vehicles, as well as laboratory facilities. The 10,000-square-foot space is at Plaza on the Lake, a complex off the Capital of Texas Highway right next to the Pennybacker Bridge.
Companies that use the center will also receive the usual Capital Factory membership benefits and will have a space specifically designed to test their robotics.
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Colin Guinn, founder of Guinn Partners, said companies need a place to work on the challenging technical problems in automation that are prevalent across the industry.
“If America is going to be a global player in drones and robotics – and we should – then companies in that space need a place to collaborate and address those problems together,” he said. “The (Center for Autonomous Robotics) meets that need. and so much more. ”
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The launch event showcased technology from startups, corporations, universities and government entities. Companies showed off technology ranging from an indoor garden to military-grade drones to battery technology.
Austin-based Lift Aircraft brought a crowd favorite, with periodic demonstrations of its flying personal multirotor aircraft – essentially a human-sized drone.
Lift Aircrafts made its public debut at SXSW in 2019, showing off a full-scale, but non-flying, aircraft at the time.
“Now at the next (SXSW) we’re flying so it’s really exciting for us,” said Kristin Giffin, director of marketing and communications for Lift Aircraft.
She said the Center for Autonomous Robotics “is exposing people to tech and showing them what it is, what it can be and how exciting it is. So we’re just hoping that people will see it as excited about it as we are. . ”
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The company is planning a 25-city tour to show off its technology. From there it plans to build its first vertiport location in Austin, where customers will be able to fly the aircraft from one vertiport to another.
“A lot of it is very much like a giant drone. The difference, of course, is that a person could get it and fly it,” Giffin said. “With an hour of training anyone can fly it.”
Austin-based Wilder Systems was showing its CBR robot, which is capable of decontaminating military aircraft and vehicles. The robot is able to perform typcal maintenance and cleaning operations, and can also handle contaminants like chemicals or radioactive material that is dangerous to be handled by humans.
The robot essentially works as a mobile car wash, capable of scanning a vehicle, mapping a 3D path, and getting in all the nooks and crannies faster than a person.
Bryce Dixson, an engineer for Wilder Systems, said the company was hoping to develop business leads and expand its operations.
“We’re trying to showcase our talents and abilities for the greater Austin area and everyone coming to see us,” he said.