A hybrid-electric cargo drone has performed successful autonomous flights in the San Francisco area. The flights included autonomous vertical take-off and landing.
MightyFly’s MF-100 autonomous aircraft has a cargo capacity of 45 kilograms and a flight range of 965 kilometres. It is approximately the size of a midsize car, and uses hybrid-electric propulsion that recharges its batteries in flight.
A larger aircraft with a cargo capacity of 227 kg is planned.
The company says the carbon-neutral cargo carrier is a middle-mile option that will be able to make deliveries to multiple hubs along one single flight route. The drone will turn a typical 80-km leg via ground transport into just a couple kilometres in the air.
“Unprecedented” in today’s delivery market
“MightyFly’s range and payload are unprecedented in the expedited delivery space today. Most existing delivery platforms carry much lighter payloads much shorter distances. They have the ability to change how business is done,” said John Formisano, a retired FedEx executive, formerly VP of Global Vehicles, and advisor to MightyFly.
The drone’s autonomous loading and unloading system transports and tracks cargo with little human interaction. Loading and unloading cargo is traditionally a very labour-intensive process. “MightyFly will simplify this process, eliminating costly errors and delays,” Formisano added.
MighyFly was founded by CEO Manal Habib and co-founder Scott Parker. The two met while working at Zipline (Habib led flight controls and Parker was a senior mechanical engineer) but realized a need for a larger autonomous aircraft with a greater cargo capacity.
The company believes it will bring benefits beyond decarbonization, including the dramatic reduction in forward and reverse logistic costs, said venture capital finance partner At One Ventures managing martner Tom Chi.
With the success of this first flight achieved, MightyFly is currently developing the MF-100 autonomous aircraft long range flight capability. This feature will demonstrate the first long-range 100 pound autonomous delivery service.