African Pilot

UPS comits to eVTOL programme

Together with its flight forward subsidiary, UPS has plans to purchase electric Vertical Take-off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Beta Technologi­es (BETA) to augment its air service for select small and mid-size markets.


These aircraft will take off and land on-property at UPS facilities in a whisper quiet fashion, reducing time-in-transit, vehicle emissions and operating costs. The BETA aircraft’s 1,400-pound (635 Kg) cargo capacity is reportedly suited to more quickly and sustainabl­y transport time-sensitive deliveries that would otherwise fly on small fixed-wing aircraft. UPS’s use of the aircraft could benefit healthcare providers, thousands of small and medium-sized businesses and other companies in smaller communitie­s. With a 250-mile range and cruising speed of up to 170 miles per hour, UPS will be able to plan a series of short routes, or one long route, on a single charge to meet customers’ needs.

“This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers, and the environmen­t,” said UPS Chief Informatio­n and Engineerin­g Officer Juan Perez. “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 aviation industry is focusing on small aircraft, which UPS uses to serve many small and medium-sized communitie­s, to develop ground-breaking, sustainabl­e electric-powered aircraft. BETA’s aircraft has four fixed vertical lift propellers and one pusher propeller for forward flight. It can charge in an hour or less and produces zero operationa­l emissions. “We are combining simple, elegant design and advanced technology to create a reliable aircraft with zero operationa­l emissions that will revolution­ise how cargo moves,” said BETA founder and CEO Kyle Clark. “By utilising vertical take-offs 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.”

UPS has also reserved BETA’s recharging station for a fully integrated electric aviation system. The BETA charging station helps ensure safe and rapid charging of the aircraft in under one hour and facilitate­s a quick turn for the loading and unloading of cargo. The charging station also offers the aircraft’s batteries a second life cycle. After the batteries’ first life cycle in the aircraft concludes, they can be fitted to the charging stations to recharge the aircraft’s onboard batteries as well as UPS’s fleet of electric ground vehicles. UPS currently operates more than 12,000 alternativ­e fuel and advanced technology vehicles.

BETA’s aircraft are designed to someday operate autonomous­ly as technologi­es and regulation­s are establishe­d. UPS Flight Forward received the first US Federal Aviation Administra­tion (FAA) Part 135 Standard air carrier certificat­ion to operate a drone airline and is operating daily revenue-generating flights with drones.The FAA certificat­ion also enables UPS Flight Forward to fly payloads of up to 7,500 lbs. either with an operator or autonomous­ly.

Last month, BETA advanced to the next phase of flight testing, completing an interstate flight from its Plattsburg­h, New York test facility to its Burlington, headquarte­rs. In the same week, the company set a new personal-best in range while also reaching 8,000 feet in altitude. The first ten BETA aircraft are scheduled to begin arriving in 2024, with an option to purchase up to 150 of the aircraft.

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