On Wednesday, UPS announced that it had signed an agreement with BETA Technologies. The eVTOL startup will deliver ten of its Alia-250 aircraft to the logistics giant by 2024. UPS, which has an option for 150 of the vehicles, says that they will help reduce the emissions profile of both its ground and air operations.
Innovation with a focus on returns
Through its wholly-owned subsidiary UPS Flight Forward, United Parcel Service has had its sights set on the drone delivery market. However, the company has now also entered into a deal with eVTOL-maker BETA Technologies.
The manufacturer will design and build ten of its Alia-250 electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles to be delivered to UPS in 2024. BETA’s Alia-aircraft has four fixed vertical lift propellers, as well as one pusher propeller. This allows it to take off vertically like a helicopter but then fly like a plane.
“This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers, and the environment. 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,” Juan Perez, UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer, said in a statement.
Zero operational emissions
It can carry up to 1,400 pounds of cargo, has a 250-mile range when fully charged, and can cruise at up to 170 mph. UPS says the aircraft will carry time-sensitive supplies that would otherwise go by smaller fixed-wing planes. The eVTOL themselves produce zero operational emissions.
UPS has also reserved BETA’s recharging station. BETA Techonlogies’ eVTOL can charge in under one hour, ensuring quick turnarounds for offloading and loading of cargo. The vehicles are designed to one day operate autonomously when technology and regulations permit.
“We’re combining simple, elegant design and advanced technology to create a reliable aircraft with zero operational emissions that will revolutionize how cargo moves. 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,” said BETA founder and CEO Kyle Clark.
eVTOL startup competition
In an interview with CNBC ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, Mr Clark said that the deal with UPS signified a step function change for the business. He further stated that it was a signal to the entire business community that electric vertical aircraft are real.
The two parties have decided not to disclose the agreement’s financial details. Still, BETA believes UPS’ early adoption of their planes will give them a significant leg up on their competition.
And there is certainly competition in the eVTOL startup arena. German eVTOL company Lilium is investing millions in constructing a hub in Florida. A partnership with Spanish company Ferrovial will see at least ten more flying taxi ports across the state.
Meanwhile, Embraer has partnered with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority to explore eVTOL over urban centers like London. Uber Elevate in partnership with GE Aviation is planning to launch an eVTOL ride-sharing program across three major cities in the US as soon as 2023. Not to mention Archer, another eVTOL startup that announced a significant investment from United Airlines in February this year.
How do you think eVTOL will change connectivity? How soon will they become an everyday occurrence in the urban skies? Leave a comment below and let us know.