Hybrid cargo drone offers 1,000 km of daily range

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by Emily Atkins

A newly developed drone is promising a full day of deliveries without the need to recharge or refuel.

The Cento is a hybrid, electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft with a cargo capacity of 45 kilograms (100 lb), a range of 965 kilometres (600 miles) and a maximum speed of 240 kmh (150 mph). It is designed with a six by one by one foot ft (1.8m x 0.30m x 0.30m) internal cargo bay that is able to carry 96 small postal packages. Cargo is loaded and unloaded by a conveyor belt that operates autonomously.

Because the Cento is equipped with a hybrid powertrain, it does not require recharging between flights. An internal combustion engine recharges the aircraft’s battery while in the air, meaning it can perform multiple consecutive deliveries.

The drone was developed by startup Mightyfly in 21 months, after the company landed US$5.1 million in seed funding.

“The traditional hub-and-spoke distribution model doesn’t serve everyone,” said Manal Habib, MightyFly’s CEO and co-founder.

“We need to be able to adapt to various cargo volumes and expedited timing. Medical companies, just-in-time manufacturing, and retailers that now provide same-day delivery need a faster and more affordable way to get their goods and perishables to the final destination.”

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted the MightyFly Cento a Special Airworthiness Certificate and a Certificate of Authorization (COA) for long-range flights. This allows the company to operate in a larger airspace (230 square miles) to test the transition from hover to forward flight at medium and high altitudes (up to 5,000 feet).

MightyFly has also been granted a small business research award by the U.S. Air Force. With no required ground-charging infrastructure and long-range capability, both afforded by its hybrid propulsion, the US Department of Defense is supporting the drone’s development for military applications.

Mightfly was founded in 2019 with backing from At One Ventures, 500 Startups, Global Founders Capital, Graph Ventures, Halogen Ventures and Side Door Ventures. It is is based in the San Francisco Bay Area