This Pilotless Aircraft Levels up to Flight Cargo
A piloted freight delivery operation is scheduled this year following the completion of MightyFly's MF-100 autonomous cargo aircraft test flights. Recently, the FAA issued a special airworthiness certificate to the company that allowed remote monitoring of flights over the San Francisco Bay Area.
In winds of as much as 15 knots, the MF-100 hovered and took off vertically at Half Moon Airport. The MightyFly engineering team has been testing the hybrid-electric propulsion system and sensors of the MF-100 to ensure they perform redundantly, as well as conducting stress tests on the payload.
In an interview with Rich Report, CEO and founder Manal Habib revealed that testing will follow within a few months to demonstrate the transition to horizontal cruise flight. There is already talk of making a larger model that could carry 500 pounds and fly 600 miles at 150 mph, so the MF-100 should be able to carry 100 pounds.
By operating fleets of MF-100 planes in various locations, MightyFly plans to provide door-to-door cargo delivery services. Dedicated aircraft might be based at warehouses or other facilities, and customers may be charged based on weight, volume, and distance.
MF-100 cargo will be automatically loaded and unloaded via a conveyor belt at 'transfer stations' using the vehicle's nose and a 20 by 20-foot land area. In this case, electric ground vehicles could handle last-mile deliveries.
Currently, Habib is in talks with several prospective launch customers to provide logistic support for a pilot project, which will launch in 2023, while continuing to conduct flight testing. As well as the United States, Singapore, Australia, and Japan are possible locations for early use cases.
The company's autonomous logistics solution has been validated by over 20 Fortune 500 companies, says Habib. Deliveries and supply chain costs are set to decrease significantly as a result of the company's automated loading process and point-to-point connections.
According to retired FedEx executive and MightyFly board member John Formisano, loading and unloading cargo is traditionally a labor-intensive process.
An internal combustion engine and electric motors are now part of the MF-100's propulsion system. To minimize the use of ground infrastructure for charging batteries, the engine recharges them while in flight.
The FAA requires pilots monitoring flights remotely to be fully qualified and trained to operate drones, according to current regulations. The MF-100 is basically an IFR aircraft, and its instruments are very similar to those of an ordinary aircraft, as Habib explained.
With the $5.1 million seed funding MightFly received in 2021, its team has grown fourfold. In anticipation of a potential funding round next year, it is in talks with some prospective investors.
MF-100 prototypes and the company's proposed operating model are shown in a video posted by the company.