During SXSW 2022, Austin launches new drone and robotics test site

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Austin-area businesses now have a dedicated space where they can test and develop robots and drones.

The Center for Autonomous Robotics, a coworking space and testing facility, is a partnership between Austin Capital Factory accelerator and incubator and Austin Guinn Partners drone company. The center, which officially opened over the weekend as part of this year’s South by Southwest event, is designed to have everything a company in the robotics industry would need to develop devices at aerial, terrestrial or aquatic use.

Capital Factory celebrated the center’s debut on Sunday with a launch party featuring robots and drones. The center will also be open on Monday with signs and demonstrations on both days.

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In a statement announcing the launch of the center, Capital Factory CEO Joshua Baer said iteration — trying processes or operations over and over 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 place where you can easily test your designs over and over again.”

The center includes an area where drones can take off and fly, a lawn where ground robots can be tested, and a lake area for launching 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 Freeway, just off the Pennybacker Bridge.

Companies using the center will also receive the usual benefits of Capital Factory membership and will have a specially designed space to test their robotics.

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Colin Guinn, founder of Guinn Partners, said companies need a place to work on the complex automation technical issues that are prevalent in the industry.

“If America is going to be a global player in drones and robotics — and we should — then companies in this space need a place to collaborate and solve these problems together,” he said. “The (Center for Autonomous Robotics) meets that need and more.”

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Austin's new Center for Autonomous Robotics debuted Sunday during South by Southwest.  The launch party showcased various robotics, including Daimler's new electric semi-trailer.

The launch event showcased technology from startups, corporations, universities, and government entities. The companies showcased technologies ranging from indoor gardening to military-grade drones to battery technology.

Austin-based Lift Aircraft has 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 scaled, but non-flying aircraft at the time.

“Now at the next (SXSW) we’re flying so that’s really exciting for us,” said Kristin Giffin, director of marketing and communications for Lift Aircraft.

She said the Center for Autonomous Robotics “exposes people to technology and shows them what it is, what it can be and how exciting it is. So we hope people will see it as excited that we. .”

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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 site in Austin, where customers can fly the aircraft from one vertiport to another.

“A lot of it looks a lot like a giant drone. The difference, of course, is that one person could get it and fly it,” Giffin said. “With an hour of practice, anyone can ride it.”

Wilder Systems, based in Austin, showed its CBR robot, capable of decontaminating planes and military vehicles. The robot is capable of performing typical maintenance and cleaning operations, and can also handle contaminants such as chemicals or radioactive materials that are hazardous to handle by humans.

The Center for Autonomous Robotics launched on Sunday during South by Southwest.  The launch party showcased various robotics, including this cleaning robot from Austin-based Wilder Systems.

The robot essentially functions as a mobile car wash, capable of scanning a vehicle, mapping a 3D path, and getting into every nook and cranny faster than a person.

Bryce Dixson, an engineer at Wilder Systems, said the company hopes to develop business leads and expand operations.

“We try to show our talents and abilities to the greater Austin area and to anyone who comes to see us,” he said.

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