May 1, 2024 - Technology

Delivery drones are getting bigger — much bigger

MightyFly's 2024 Cento eVTOL is seen during a test flight in March 2024. Photo courtesy MightyFly.

MightyFly's 2024 Cento eVTOL is seen during a test flight in March 2024. Photo courtesy of MightyFly

Next-gen aviation startup MightyFly says it's the first company developing a large, autonomous electric vehicle takeoff and landing (eVTOL) cargo drone that's been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for a flight corridor, Axios is first to report.

Why it matters: It's a big milestone for the emerging company — and for the drone delivery world more broadly.

Driving the news: The corridor, connecting California's New Jerusalem and Byron Airports (about 20 miles apart as the crow flies), will allow MightyFly to conduct a variety of flight tests with its latest drone, the 2024 Cento.

  • The company also got the go-ahead to test the Cento beyond the operator's visual line of sight while using a chase plane.
  • That's key, as Axios' Joann Muller has written. Beyond visual line of sight operations are essential for enabling large-scale drone logistics.

Zoom in: The latest Cento variant is a hybrid drone about the size of a small single-seater aircraft, and can carry 100 lbs. of cargo up to 600 miles.

  • It's designed for fully autonomous operation, down to loading and unloading packages.
  • It can even move packages around inside itself to adjust weight and balance as necessary.

What they're saying: "The use case is B2B expedited logistics," says CEO and founder Manal Habib, an MIT and Stanford grad who formerly worked at drone delivery startup Zipline.

  • Think, she says, of deliveries from suppliers to manufacturers, from hospitals to labs, from warehouses to retail stores, or to an oil rig, a farm or a mining site — as well as for DOD use cases.

What's next: MightyFly is planning to demonstrate the Cento's capabilities to potential commercial operators, plus the U.S. Air Force.

  • Expect a Series A investment round soon, Habib adds, to help the company scale manufacturing.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify Manal Habib's examples of how drones might be used to expedite B2B logistics.

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