MIAMI – UPS (5X) has become the third client of Beta Technologies’ Alia electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
Today, the cargo company signed a contract to acquire 150 Alia. In addition, UPS stated that it takes delivery of the first ten aircraft in 2024, with the remaining 140 units secured as options.
With the ability to take off and land directly on UPS premises, this eVTOL can carry smaller loads that would otherwise be shipped to and from airports on small feeder aircraft or on the ground.
Moreover, The deal advances UPS’s efforts to integrate drone operations into its massive air cargo network, building on projects already underway through its drone-operating division, UPS Flight Forward.
Comments from UPS, Beta
According to UPS’s media release, “This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers, and the environment,” said Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer. “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.”
As Flightglobal reports: “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,” says Beta founder and chief executive Kyle Clark.
UPS Flight Forward
According to Flightglobal, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted UPS Flight Forward a Part 135 operating permit in 2019. Therefore, allowing the organization to perform beyond-line-of-sight, revenue-generating parcel delivery flights using drones. Also, UPS Flight Forward has used a quadcopter drone known as M2. Matternet, headquartered in California, built and developed the M2, which can carry a 5-pound payload.
UPS claims it has deployed over 12,000 state-of-the-art cars worldwide. Also, UPS pledges to buy up to 10,000 electric ground vehicles from Arrival. The manufacturer produces many of those vehicles in North Carolina.
The company plans to use Beta’s recharging stations to charge batteries for each aircraft in less than an hour. The charging stations make for quicker freight loading and unloading, also give the aircraft batteries a second chance. In that, after their first lifecycle in an airplane, they start their second life on a charging station. Therefore, they will charge the aircraft’s onboard battery or drive UPS’s fleet of electric ground vehicles.
Beta’s Alia 250
Beta has been developing the eVTOL aircraft concept since 2017. The Alia 250 evolving from an earlier technology demonstrator known as the Ava. Meanwhile, it is performing substantial test flights for a prototype from Plattsburgh Airport in New York, which is close to the corporate headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.
For lift, Beta’s aircraft has four fixed, vertically mounted props and one pusher prop at the tail. According to UPS, the eVTOL’s batteries are capable to recharge in 1 hour or less. Moreover, it has a cargo payload capability of 1,400lb (635kg), a range of 217nm (402km), and a cruise speed of 148kt (274km/h). The aircraft has also a “direct-drive electric” propulsion system with air-cooled engines.
Beta offered the Alia-250 in both a passenger layout with six seats and a freight configuration with 5.7cb m (200cb ft) of cargo space. The firm designed the aircraft that can land on Beta’s “multi-featured charging pad”. The pad consists of a landing deck atop a structure featuring a control center and a rest area.
According to futureflight.aero, United Therapeutics has previously agreed to purchase an undisclosed amount of Alia 250s for use in delivering human organs for organ transplantation. Via its Agility Prime initiative, the United States Air Force is now supporting Beta with a research and innovation contract.
Featured image courstesy: BETA