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The Modovolo Lift. Long flight time. Low, low price. And Legos? 

As a drone operator and company owner myself, that means that I’m always trying to find ways to increase my profit margins for my drone business.

A key part of this is finding the best drone at the lowest cost, but that has always come at the expense of flight time. Because there are currently only two options. 

  • Option 1: a cheaper commercial drone at about $12k (and above) to get any sort of payload capacity up to 5 lbs and maybe 30 minutes of flight time.  
  • And then Option 2: a commercial drone that uses exotic materials (and designs) for much more flight time – perhaps over an hour – but I need to fork over $50k to $100k+. 

Option 1 has always been the manageable choice – despite all its inherent problems. Yes, I’ll buy the extra batteries. I’ll fly back and forth from the job site losing time to swap batteries. I’ll monitor and charge batteries in my office and in my SUV – and anywhere I can find a plug – so that I’m not in panic mode on the job site worried about whether I have enough batteries to complete the job. 

I’ll even buy multiple drones and have done so regularly.  Yes, I’m incurring costs (which also hurt my profit margins) but it still has been better than the upfront cost of Option 2.  

The co-founders of Modovolo, Erik, CTO, and Justin, CEO, have experienced the same pain. Erik is an aerospace engineer, and former USAF Captain, but most importantly for the last 5 years, he’s been a commercial drone pilot.  He saw the same issues with Option 1 and Option 2 and he recognized the core problems with both. 

“I realized that the reason for short flight times in drones is their fixed-hub design. There’s a lot of redundant and excessive structure. That adds a lot of weight.  And the propeller design and the the electric motor RPMs are very inefficient. When you add those things together, it translates to short flight time.” 

I’ve had similar thoughts. Drone design really hasn’t evolved that much since the dawn of drones over 15 years ago.

But Erik went one step further. 

Erik explains, “Why do I need to buy a new drone for each application?  It was driving me nuts. I just spent $12k on a drone that could carry 5 lbs of payload only to find out later that for another job the payload was 7 lbs. But this meant I needed to spend another $18k to get a drone just for that payload. It’s absolutely crazy.  Think about if Dell required that we buy one computer for word processing and another computer for spreadsheets. We would never agree to that. Why do we agree to this for drones?”  

I think we’ve all had these similar thoughts but it’s not clear how to fix all of these problems with current drone design. 

Justin comments, “We knew we had to re-think drone design from the bottom up. A complete departure from what has been done to date. We also knew that, to get the cost down – way down – we needed to avoid not only expensive materials but also anything that would complicate the manufacturing process.” 

This is where the hero enters the story, the bicycle wheel. 

Erik explains, “We built many, many, many prototypes and nothing was working. We weren’t getting the breakthrough lightness we wanted so that we could achieve amazing flight times. That’s when the proverbial light bulb went off. I realized that the bicycle wheel had all the characteristics we needed. Light, strong, and rugged. It’s really an underappreciated technological marvel and no one had ever thought to use it in aerospace.” 

Image Courtesy of Modovolo

This is also where the Lego concept was born. 

Erik continues, “We next realized that the bicycle wheel had yet another benefit. It meant that we were no longer constrained to one design. You can connect them together in any configuration you want for the mission at hand. Need more thrust to lift a heavier payload or need more flight time? Just add more Lift Pods.” 

Image Courtesy of Modovolo

After 2 ½ years of development and filing a bunch of patents to protect all aspects of the Lift Pod and the modularity concept, the team came out of stealth mode just this March 2024 and launched a pre-order website. 

“We’re in the process of getting our first manufacturing production cell set up and we’re offering a limited run of 200 pre-orders. Those customers will get guaranteed production priority, special access to our engineering team, a limited edition modovolo t-shirt, and get to direct what kinds of Utility Pods we’ll build first.” Justin states.

You can go to to learn more and get your pre-order today.