Last week (17FEB22), the only female-led eVTOL aircraft company in the business, MightyFly, announced that its MF-100 autonomous aircraft had successfully carried out test flights in the
San Francisco Bay area. Since raising USD 5.1 million in seed funding last year, the autonomous air cargo carrier, founded in OCT19, has been hiring across the board, ramping up its product, and
preparing to perform its first delivery pilots. It is now ready to cruise.
“MightyFly is re-imagining mid-mile cargo transport for businesses through cost savings, increased efficiency, and carbon neutrality,” is the claim on its website. Founded in October 2019, by Manal Habib and Scott Parker, two former Zipline employees who saw the niche for a more voluminous autonomous aircraft, the company has developed the MightyFly MF-100: an eVTOL aircraft with hybrid-electric vertical take-off and landing, a cargo capacity of 100lbs/45kg, a range of 600 miles/965 km, and capable of speeds of up to 150mph/240km/h. A larger MF-500 with a 500lb/225kg payload is also planned.
“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 pounds autonomous delivery service,” the recent press release states.
The aircraft has been developed to address a very specific problem many customers face in logistics today: the challenge of expedited delivery when it comes to small volumes. Whether these are daily-need items, medical supplies, live human organs, or other medical, healthcare, or retail items, the current solution via hub and spoke delivery systems and often using road transport, are neither satisfactory, fast, nor environmentally friendly. Yet, Manal Habib points out “Expedited delivery is being seen as the norm, and the expectation is there that prices should go down”. Enter the MightyFly! “With patent-pending autonomous technology, MightyFly is engineering a faster, less-expensive, carbon neutral, door-to-door, mid mile cargo solution,” the press release promises. One that is already FAA-certified, since the company has involved the FAA at every stage of development, from the very beginning. It originally received a special air worthiness certificate and is working towards FAA Part 135 type certification to allow for commercial services all over the U.S.
What makes MightyFly stand out?
For one, it is truly autonomous. “[We are] not just automating flight, but the whole service,” Manal Habib points out. Just one supervisor on the ground will keep an eye on all the MightyFly aircraft in the air at any one point. Even aircraft loading and unloading can be performed with the click of a button: “MightyFly’s autonomous loading and unloading system transports and tracks cargo with minimal human interaction, further decreasing inefficiencies within the logistics sector.” It requires 2 car-parking spaces to perform take-off or landing and can take off from all locations. Eventually customers will be able to go online and interact with MightyFly as they would with any other logistics service providing door-to-door delivery, requesting MightyFly to come to designated locations to pick up packages and deliver them to the nearest transport station as requested by customer.
What makes MightyFly unique, too, is its capability to recharge its own batteries during flight. The aircraft flies as fixed wing, and transitions to eVTOL for take-off and landing. The in-air propulsion and hybrid engine recharges batteries in flight. This autonomy allows it to carry out around 800 deliveries (based on average shipment sizes and flight lengths) a day, to multiple hubs along a single flight route. “Multi-leg cargo transfers raise costs even higher because each leg multiplies both money and time. At MightyFly, in addition to developing automated loading and unloading features, we are also reducing the number of necessary legs within a package’s overall journey. This ultimately leads to reduced cost and time savings,” the release states.
A winning formula
MightyFly is completely re-imagining how logistics are set up. Tom Chi, At One Ventures Managing Partner, explains: “Our approach has the potential to rewrite the logistics landscape by enabling low cost, low emission point to point autonomous routing. Beyond decarbonization benefits, the dramatic reduction in forward and reverse logistic costs are an essential foundation for a more circular materials economy.” And the method is convincing investors and potential customers alike: “Currently, over 20 Fortune 500 companies have validated MightyFly’s autonomous logistics solution to their mid-mile inefficiencies. MightyFly is excited and ready to keep partnering with more companies prepared to adopt this innovative logistics methodology,” MightyFly’s CEO and founder, Manal Habib, said.
A woman dedicated to aviation and air logistics
Manal Habib, too, is what makes MightyFly different. Speaking on “The eVTOL Insights Podcast” (https://soundcloud.com/user-308909726/episode-55-manal-habib-ceo-and-co-founder-of-mightyfly ) last year, the MIT-Stanford graduate in Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, reveals that her passion for all things aviation reaches all the way back to her childhood. “Since I was a child, I saw huge opportunities in how aerospace technologies can change our lives for the better,” she says, going on to cite an impressive and comprehensive list of the areas she has already explored - from space satellites to drones and all the way through to getting her own pilot’s license to fly single-engine planes. Fun fact: whereas many people spent lockdown baking bread, Manal Habib was busy building her own 2-seater aerobatic airplane in her garage (a project she began in 2018). It is safe to say, when it comes to flying, she knows her material inside-out.
Need more balance in the career funnels
Asked about the fact that she is the only female CEO in that niche, and the importance of diversity and inclusion, she emphasizes that “there are amazing female CEOs and engineers in the industry” but that there needs to be more balance in the career pipelines feeding to top management level, in what, historically, has always been a male-dominated industry. “All genders,” she says “should be given the chance to bring their skills into the picture and help build the future”.
What are MightyFly’s 2022 plans?
2022 will be the year that MightyFly works together with pilot partners to perform real deliveries over periods of 6 months and come up with Use Case material. It has been speaking to potential partners in the retail, medical, and healthcare industries both in the U.S. as well as in Australia and Singapore. “Logistics is very broad,” Manal Habib points out. “There are lots of potential Use Case for our technology. We are looking for the perfect one with great locations and huge growth potentials.” Once the Use Cases are through, the company will “scale up from there and start to set up the infrastructure of the future of logistics.”
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