Tiny Mighty Fly Is Preparing to Leave Its Mark on the Global Drone Industry

Drone companies come in all shapes and sizes, and so do the businesses and causes they serve.  While major retailers like Amazon and Walmart with massive publicity departments continue to capture the media headlines – even while struggling to get their aerial package delivery operations off the ground – some smaller UAV companies, operating in out-of-the way locales with little public fanfare, are preparing to leave a huge mark on the global drone industry.

A prime example is Mighty Fly, a San Francisco-based drone company first profiled here last March.  The three-year-old start-up already enjoys the distinction of being one of the first and only woman-owned drone firms currently operating in the US – and indeed, anywhere in the world.  Its co-founder CEO Manil Habib grew up with a powerful vision of what flight could do to serve mankind and has dedicated her life to making her vision come true.  Since its founding in late 2021, the company has experienced an extraordinary – if largely unheralded – rise to prominence, attracting the attention of major new industry investors, while quietly marketing its state-of-the art autonomous drone delivery services to businesses and governments alike.

Part of Mighty Fly’s cachet is its exclusive focus on autonomous “middle mile” heavy cargo eVTOL aircraft that can fly continuously over long distances without the need for recharging.  The company’s first prototype, the Cento, with a payload of 100 pounds and a flight range of 600 miles, earlier this year received a special air-worthiness certificate from the FAA (followed by a COA, allowing for advanced flight testing).  Rather than rest on its laurels, the company quickly moved to develop a second-generation version of the Centro, and more recently, a third generation prototype, with a much larger payload (500 pounds) and a flight range exceeding thousand miles.  While a number of major European players are also preparing to enter the long-distance drone cargo market, with even larger aircraft, Mighty Fly’s three drones could well come to dominate an important niche at the lower end of the scale.

Mighty Fly’s rapid prototype development capability and its demonstrated safety qualifications have already attracted the attention of some major new investors — most recently, the electronics giant Mitsubishi, which has tapped Mighty Fly as one of a dozen UAV companies that the Japanese company will now support as part of its own European-wide drone “hub” development strategy.  Mighty Fly was the only US drone company selected, and one of only two start-ups, an indication of the high regard with which the firm, despite its relative youth, is already held, especially abroad.

A good part of Mighty Fly’s success to date is due to the extraordinary technology design team that Habib and her co-founder Scott Parker have recruited to the firm from the beginning, giving the company a decided edge over larger and more established firms.  Habib and Parker met while working together at another innovative drone start-up (Zipline) and have created a unique synergy that allows Mighty Fly to race forward at record speed.  The company now boasts an international design and engineering team of 12, up from its original 5, but it remains a small and highly agile company compared to many of its better known competitors.

Mighty Fly’s edge in innovation isn’t just limited to its aircraft. Habib is also keenly aware of the challenges many businesses now face in their logistics, especially since COVID, with persistent bottlenecks that disrupt their supply chains. Early on, she and Parler looked for ways to make cargo drone delivery operations faster, smoother, more efficient and ultimately, more profitable. Their efforts resulted in the design of an automated conveyor belt system that allows for completely autonomous loading and unloading of drone cargo, obviating the need for human intervention by shippers or receivers.  It’s another business-friendly design element that gives Mighty Fly a decided edge over its competitors.

“The traditional hub-and-spoke distribution model can still serve businesses that have centralized warehousing and shipping systems in place and that have experienced few logistics issues,” Habib said recently.  “But if there is one lesson we’ve learned from supply chain bottlenecks and logistics over the past few years, it’s that we need flexibility – to be able to adapt to various cargo volumes and expedited timing or urgencies.”

Mighty Fly’s latest breakthrough is the announcement last week that its third-generation drone will receive a formal public demonstration in Michigan later this year as part of the state’s recently unveiled and highly-touted Future Mobility and Electrification Program (FMEP).  Michigan’s automotive, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries are operating on a “just-in-time, as needed” delivery schedule that demands a high level of speed and efficiency but officials say their current road vehicle and point-to-point air delivery systems are having trouble keeping up.  The state is excited about Mighty Fly’s capabilities, including its automated loading system, and has provided the company with seed money to make an unprecedented public exhibition that could lead to a long-term statewide government contract for the firm, while opening the door to major new commercial opportunities.

The coming year should be a big one for Mighty Fly.  The firm has ambitions of becoming a major player not only in Europe but also in Australia and with Mitsubisi’s backing, in Japan and Singapore.  More FAA certifications are likely forthcoming, with more requests for public flight demonstrations.  As word of mouth spreads, more investors will likely be banging on the company’s door, too.  Coming up on just its 4th year in existence, this extraordinary little start-up with a declared mission to “revolutionize logistics” is preparing to take the drone industry by storm.

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