Beta Technologies, which has agreed to sell electric vertical take-off and landing airplanes to United Parcel Service, sees the agreement as a major step towards accepting eVTOLs as commercially viable.
“UPS is a radical change of function for our business,” Beta founder Kyle Clark told TBEN ahead of Wednesday’s announcement. “He’s telegraphing the entire business community that vertical electric planes are real.”
Beta Technologies will design and build 10 of its Alia-250 eVTOLs for delivery to UPS in 2024, pending Federal Aviation Administration certification. The aircraft is powered by an electric battery. It has five propellers, which allows it to take off vertically like a helicopter and then fly like an airplane. It can carry 1,400 pounds. It can travel up to 250 miles at 170 mph when fully charged, which takes 50 minutes.
UPS, headquartered in Atlanta, plans to test eVTOLs in its Express Air delivery network to replace small planes that can carry 500 to 3,000 pounds.
“Global customer acceptance of electric vertical aircraft will not happen overnight, and the trust and validation … occurs when a company like UPS flies these items safely between airports and airports. distribution centers, and at the airport and outbound. airports, ”Clark said. “This experience or just the emotional response of the general public to know that they are not the first to go – so it flew, hundreds of planes in millions of hours of packages – is the right way to go. approach that market, and it will put us considerably ahead of our competition. “
There is growing competition in the emerging eVTOL market, with another startup, Archer, announcing an investment from United Airlines in February. Silicon Valley-based Archer plans to build a four-passenger plane that can travel 60 miles at 150 mph. Archer aims to have its eVTOL delivered to customers by 2024, if it is certified by the FAA. In December, California-based Joby Aviation purchased the Uber Elevate flying taxi service, with the intention of putting its eVTOL aircraft into service as early as 2024. Wisk, formed in 2019 as a joint venture between Boeing and the aircraft manufacturer Kitty Hawk Corp., has started testing autonomous eVTOLs taxis in New Zealand.
Beta Technologies and UPS are not disclosing the financial terms of the deal, however, UPS has an option to purchase up to 150 additional eVTOLs from Beta. UPS also brought in a staff member at Beta’s headquarters in Burlington, Vt., To identify and resolve any issues regarding “how to load this thing, how to unload it, what does the pilot need for a cockpit, how to get the trucks in and out, ”says Clark. “All these things that allow us to have a better product in the future [and] are activated by early UPS engagement like this. “
This is “the first significant customer order in the electric-vertical aerospace space, and it’s a real order, and it differentiates us very quickly,” said Clark. “We really focused on getting a real partnership with UPS, getting a real order in place and having a clear path to deployment, in our ability to recruit people, to partner with the best aerospace companies in the world,” and of course to get additional orders. “
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives estimates that there will be around $ 300 billion in eVTOL spending by 2028. Beta Technologies said it will focus on delivering aircraft to commercial customers for the moment, but that it will eventually sell to individuals.
Clark said the full scope of using eVTOLs is still being defined, but he sees the aircraft Beta delivers to UPS as the start of the next chapter for his business and the industry.
“We have a proposed new form of propulsion, going into aerospace, that will expand the whole aerospace market. No one here is replacing a helicopter or a jet, or whatever. We actually allow routes and missions entirely. news that was previously unthinkable in aerospace, “he said.” This UPS order only heightens reality, intensifies funding, intensifies focus and provides a true deployable vision for the entire industry, and of course specifically for the beta.