2024 is not that far away, really. That is the year in which UPS envisages taking delivery of the first ten BETA aircraft is has ordered, along with an option to purchase up to 150 in total. Green cargo flights are just around the corner.
Beta Technologies, focused on “the future of flight”, is a South Burlington, Vermont, USA-based startup aircraft manufacturer, and its BETA Alia 250 electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL)
aircraft is what has caught UPS’ eye in its effort to reduce its carbon footprint. An order has been put in for the aircraft along with BETA’s recharging station. Neither company has disclosed
any financial details at this point.
Following on from a commitment last year to buy 10,000 electric vehicles from Arrival, a UK-based technology startup, UPS has now turned its attention to a greener solution for deliveries to small and mid-size UPS facilities. The recharging station it has reserved from BETA can also be used to power electric ground vehicles. The BETA aircraft have a 635 kg cargo capacity and can fly distances of around 400 km at a cruising speed of up to 273 km/h. The perfect aircraft to cover shorter distances, carrying urgent shipments normally transported on small, fixed-wing planes, but without the noise and emissions pollution.
Charging on ahead
“This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers, and the environment,” said UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer Juan Perez. “These new aircraft will create operational efficiencies in our business, open possibilities for new services, and serve as a foundation for future solutions to reduce the emissions profile of our air and ground operation.”
Thought has been put in to the product life-cycle too. The recharging station is able to charge the aircraft in less than an hour, thus ensuring quick flight turnarounds. Once the batteries are no longer airworthy, they start their second life inside the charging stations, UPS’s fleet of electric ground vehicles.
Small is beautiful, flexible, and efficient
“We’re combining simple, elegant design and advanced technology to create a reliable aircraft with zero operational emissions that will revolutionize how cargo moves,” said BETA founder and CEO Kyle Clark. “By utilizing vertical takeoffs and landings, we can turn relatively small spaces at existing UPS facilities into a micro air feeder network without the noise or operating emissions of traditional aircraft.”
BETA have developed an aircraft that has four fixed vertical lift propellors, allowing it to take off vertically from small spaces, and a pusher propellor for forward flight, all emitting just a tenth of the noise of conventional aircraft. Eventually, the planes will operate autonomously once technologies and regulations allow. Something that UPS Flight Forward is already prepared for, having received the first U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 135 Standard air carrier certification to operate a drone airline for payloads of up to 3400 kg, both with an operator or autonomously.
Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3
The BETA aircraft, which has been in development since 2017, is constantly undergoing improvements and tests. Most recently, BETA completed an interstate flight from its Plattsburgh, NY test facility to its Burlington, Vt. Headquarters, completing rigorous testing to ensure reliable and predictable behavior of the aircraft and comply with FAA regulations. It also recently set a company record, reaching an altitude of 2430 m altitude.
UPS has not yet disclosed where its BETA Alia aircraft will be deployed, only that it will benefit healthcare customers. UPS is BETA’s third client alongside the United States Air Force, and launch customer, United Therapeutics which uses the aircraft to deliver Live Human Organs across Maryland and Florida.
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