Beta Technologies today signed up a third customer for its Alia 250 eVTOL aircraft with UPS Flight Forward announcing plans to buy up to 150 units. The express package delivery giant said that it intends to take delivery of the first 10 aircraft in 2024, with the remaining 140 units covered by options.
With the capability to take off and land directly on UPS properties, the eVTOL aircraft would move smaller loads that would otherwise be transported to and from airports on small feeder aircraft or on the ground. Vehicle specifications for the all-electric Alia show a cargo capacity of 1,400 pounds and a range of 250 miles.
“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.”
The company intends to use the recharging stations that Beta has developed to recharge the batteries for each aircraft in less than one hour. While allowing for faster cargo loading and unloading, the charging stations also offer the aircraft batteries a second life. After their first lifecycle in an aircraft ends, they can be fitted to the charging station to recharge the aircraft’s onboard batteries or be used to power UPS’s fleet of electric ground vehicles.
UPS says it already has more than 12,000 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles deployed worldwide. It is committed to purchasing up to 10,000 electric ground vehicles from Arrival, many of which that manufacturer will produce in North Carolina.
Beta has been working on its eVTOL aircraft design since 2017, with the Alia 250 having been developed from an earlier technology demonstrator called the Ava. It is conducting extensive test flights with a prototype operating out of Plattsburgh Airport in New York, which is close to the company headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.
The United Therapeutics medical technology group has previously committed to buying an unspecified number of Alia 250s to use for transporting human organs for transplant procedures. The U.S. Air Force is also backing Beta with a research and development contract through its Agility Prime program.