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Posted On: 9 February 2021 08:02 am

Startup of the Week: Meet the future of delivery and mobility - Airlift's self-driving vehicle

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Every week, ILQ features a different Qatari startup in our ‘Startup of the Week’ segment. Qatar has some of the most creative, unique, and impactful startups in the region, and we cover them all across a variety of industries in Doha—from fashion and beauty to food and dining, health, education, technology, and more!

Know a startup we should feature on Startup of the Week? Email us at [email protected]!

This week we're putting the spotlight on Airlift! Airlift Systems is a technology startup based at Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) offering a mobile utility vehicle designed to unlock the value of autonomous systems for all.

From their headquarters in Qatar and tech hub in the Netherlands, Airlift works with enterprises to experiment with their self-driving technology which is cost-effective and agile to capture its value and augment their staff productivity.

airlift systems qatar autonomous vehicles
Image credit: Airlift systems

From idea to reality

The company started in 2017 at Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) and initially wanted to solve the last-mile delivery problem with aerial drones. That's where the company name came from. But after facing difficulties with permits for commercial drone testing, Airlift shifted to ground robots.

Unlocking the value of autonomous systems

According to Ahmed Mohamedali, Airlift's General Manager, the company aims to provide sustainable solutions for last-mile delivery and urban mobility.

Having had an e-commerce startup at the time, it was very clear that last-mile delivery is a massive bottleneck for growth. So, we went on a mission to develop a sustainable and future-proof solution for this issue. Since then and we believe it’s our commitment to provide innovative automated mobility technologies that is fulfilling to customer’s needs, sustainable for the environment and efficient for businesses.
Also looking at macro scale, urban mobility is inefficient. Consider last mile delivery, 25% of all cargo in European cities could be moved using cyclists. Airlift CORE can easily take up this volume and deliver parcels with autonomous navigation on bike-lanes and roadways.
Addressing cost, availability and sustainability challenges in dense urban cities. Similarly, when it comes to people transportation, 50% to 60% of passenger trips are less than 8km in the US and EU. Hence, on the road to a fully Shared Autonomous and Electric Vehicles (SAEVs) service, we’re starting with an on-demand floating vehicle powered by autonomous repositioning and docking. Addressing parking and weather-proofing challenges of current micromobility solutions.
airlift systems self driving delivery vehicle qatar
Image credit: Airlift Systems

Robotics, delivered

Currently, Airlift is focused on moving people and things with two variations of their vehicle called “CORE”. CORE for delivery and CORE for Mobility (coming out soon).

At the moment, we’re offering our platform for enterprises that would be willing to experiment with self-driving technology which is cost effective and agile to capture its value and augment their staff productivity. Since inception, we’ve been driven by the notion of democratizing autonomy and technology, this is realized by our cost-effective build and robot design. Ultimately, our motto is Robotics, Delivered, and by that we mean unlocking the value of autonomous systems for all industries.

What is CORE?

CORE is a self-driving utility vehicle that is modular by design and could be utilized in multiple use-cases. The fully electric vehicle is compact in size and ideal for operations on sidewalks and bike lanes. It’s equipped with a full sensor suite to enable autonomous navigation. The suite consists of a novel lidar system that we developed in-house, in addition to cameras, ultrasonic sensors and RTK GPS for ultraprecision localization.

Airlift is also releasing a low latency communication system for real-time monitoring of its fleet.

Qatar's first self-driving delivery vehicle
Image credit: Airlift Sysems

How was the response like from your customers so far?

Ahmed shares, "We’ve taken a quite ad-hoc approach when experimenting with our partners. It’s a new technology that they need to grasp gradually, that’s why we try to integrate seamlessly within their current operations to demonstrate the value first. Thus far, the feedback has been great, we’re able to show the impact as well as identify room for improvement and work on maturing our technology in parallel."

What was the hardest part in the early stages of the company’s growth? What are your achievements so far?

We’re still an early-stage hardware startup, and working on hardware is capital intensive. It was always a challenge to secure the funds needed but we were blessed to have angel investors who believed in what we envision. As well as great support from QSTP- Product Development Fund and QFRDI- Innovation Coupon programs.
I’d say our biggest achievement thus far is being able to mature our technology and earn the trust of many partners here in Qatar and in the Netherlands. We’ll be capitalizing on this further as we scale our operations.
Airlift Systems Team
The Airlift Systems Team. Image credit: Airlift

What’s next for Airlift Systems?

Airlift is working tirelessly to introduce and deploy more vehicles in various locations here in Qatar.

Soon more customers will be able to receive their deliveries using Airlfit's contactless automated service. The startup will be announcing these locations on its social media pages in the coming months, so stay tuned!

Airlift Systems details

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