On April 7, United Parcel Service (UPS) announced that its UPS Flight Forward subsidiary plans to purchase and operate cargo aircraft from Burlington, Vermont-based Beta Technologies. UPS Flight Forward is scheduled to take delivery of its first 10 Beta electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft beginning in 2024, with the option to purchase up to 150. UPS noted that the aircraft has a cargo capacity of 200 ft³ (5.7 m³) and 1,400 lb (635 kg), a range of 250 miles (400 km) and zero operating emissions. Beta is planned to begin deliveries in 2024 of the Alia 250c production model, based on the prototype that Beta has been flying since last year.
UPS has also reserved Beta's recharging station for rapid charging of the aircraft in under one hour. The charging station also offers the aircraft’s batteries a second life. After the batteries’ lifecycle in the aircraft is over, they can be fitted to the charging station to recharge the aircraft’s onboard batteries as well as UPS’s fleet of electric ground vehicles, the company noted.
In October 2019, UPS Flight Forward became the first drone operator to achieve US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 135 standard air carrier certification, making it the first operator to be approved to fly commercial drone deliveries beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).
However, on April 13, Beta announced that it had consummated a binding agreement with Blade Urban Air Mobility. Blade will be Beta’s first passenger service customer, committing to purchase up to 20 Beta Electric Vertical Aircraft (“EVA”), as Blade calls them. Blade’s Alia 250 variants are envisioned to carry five passengers — or three standard cargo 48-by-40-inch (1,219-by-1,016-mm) pallets — plus a pilot.
To date, the Alia demonstrator has flown from Plattsburgh, New York, to Burlington, Vermont, the first known case of an eVTOL flying from one airport to another, and the first to cross state lines in the US, albeit without its lift propellers installed. On that flight, Alia reached an 8,000 ft (2,400 m) altitude and achieved a range greater than 100 miles (160 km) with only three of the five battery packs installed. In total, Beta has made more than 250 flights of its two eVTOL demonstrators. However, the company has not yet begun conducting untethered vertical takeoffs or landings with Alia.
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