Autonomous Evtol Freighter Aircraft Mightyfly start Flight Tests

Autonomous Evtol Freighter Aircraft Mightyfly start Flight Tests
Courtesy of Air Cargo News

MF-100 for a 600-mile range, a pusher propeller to increase range, and an improved auto-eVTOL system for the Cento, MightyFly's second-generation aircraft. A hybrid-electric vehicle with a 100-pound payload is expected to expand demonstration flights after the FAA granted a special airworthiness certificate and a certificate of authorization (COA) for the California-based start-up.

An FAA experimental license has allowed the company to conduct remotely piloted test flights with the MF-100 since early 2022. MightyFly began testing the Cento in December 2022 under the terms of the COA, which will enable it to demonstrate the critical transition from hover to horizontal flight, as well as conduct flight tests in larger, 230-square-mile airspace and at higher altitudes.

With eight electrical vertical lift fans, each powered by a separate electric motor, the Cento achieves speeds up to 150 mph with a pusher propeller. Additionally, a 30-horsepower internal combustion engine will charge the batteries during flight, eliminating the need for ground recharging facilities.

In addition to having a pusher propeller, the earlier MF-100 did not have an engine. MightyFly's engineers had to fundamentally redesign the aircraft to take into account the weight and balance implications of adding the engine to achieve the range MightyFly feels is needed to compete commercially.

It weighs 355 pounds when its high-wing carbon fiber airframe is fully loaded. According to MightyFly, it can operate in multiple locations due to its smaller footprint than two compact cars.

96 small packages can be stored in the six-cubic-foot internal cargo bay of the vehicle, which is large enough to handle U.S. Postal Service packages. With an onboard conveyor belt, freight can be loaded and unloaded autonomously, so only parcel pick-ups at ground stations will require human intervention.

The San Francisco Bay area airspace in which MightyFly can conduct operations now extends up to eight nautical miles, according to co-founder and CEO Manal Habib. In this way, the delivery operations can be simulated over a longer distance.

It may also have the opportunity to conduct flight trials in other locations if the FAA grants further approvals. In order to complete type certification, the company is undertaking a nine-month flight test program.

"There is redundancy across the major critical parts of this airplane, which is designed to withstand the loads of fixed-wing flight," Habib explained. “As a result of this, we have entered a year-long test cycle, starting with vertical flight, then transition and afterward long-range flight."

According to Habib, MightFly plans to develop a more point-to-point model for freight deliveries that will be more cost-effective than hub-and-spoke networks. In order to serve commercial clients, the company intends to operate the aircraft itself.

“Our company has received a lot of interest from medical and pharmaceutical companies, as well as manufacturers who need help with just-in-time production methods and same-day retail deliveries. Centos tend to be fully or close to fully loaded more often than vans that are not fully loaded much of the time."

MightyFly was awarded a Small Business Innovation Research grant contract by the U.S. Air Force to explore possible defense applications for the Cento. A 500-pound payload version of the vehicle will be developed within the next few years, according to the company.

MightyFly is interested in setting up trial programs with customers in the U.S., as well as Australia, Singapore, and Japan. Having raised $5.1 million in seed funding in 2021, the company is now "hiring talent across operations, logistics, business, and engineering."

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