Aircraft

UPS plans to start deliveries via eVTOL in 2024

UPS plans to start deliveries ...
UPS is preparing to begin deploying electric VTOL aircraft in its delivery services, and has committed to buy up to 150 Aria-250 aircraft from Beta Technologies. Pictured: a sub-scale model in flight testing
UPS is preparing to begin deploying electric VTOL aircraft in its delivery services, and has committed to buy up to 150 Aria-250 aircraft from Beta Technologies. Pictured: a sub-scale model in flight testing
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UPS is preparing to begin deploying electric VTOL aircraft in its delivery services, and has committed to buy up to 150 Aria-250 aircraft from Beta Technologies. Pictured: a sub-scale model in flight testing
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UPS is preparing to begin deploying electric VTOL aircraft in its delivery services, and has committed to buy up to 150 Aria-250 aircraft from Beta Technologies. Pictured: a sub-scale model in flight testing
The Aria's layout incorporates four vertical lift props
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The Aria's layout incorporates four vertical lift props
The vertical lift props are tapered to reduce drag once they're turned off in horizontal flight
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The vertical lift props are tapered to reduce drag once they're turned off in horizontal flight
The Aria-250 will go into production in five-passenger air taxi and single-seat cargo versions
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The Aria-250 will go into production in five-passenger air taxi and single-seat cargo versions
Beta's prototype is already well into flight testing, and the company expects to be certified and in production by 2024
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Beta's prototype is already well into flight testing, and the company expects to be certified and in production by 2024
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UPS has signed a deal to buy up to 150 eVTOL aircraft from Vermont's Beta Technologies, and is expecting to begin using them for time-sensitive zero-emissions deliveries in certain markets in 2024, taking off and landing on-site at UPS depots.

Beta's Alia aircraft is an interesting design inspired by the shape of the Arctic tern; a transitioning fixed-wing aircraft with four large, drag-minimizing VTOL props mounted on bars extending forward and backward from the wings, and a single pusher prop on the back for efficient cruising on the wing.

Charging up in just 50 minutes, the Alia-250c claims a huge 250 nautical mile (288-mile/463-km) range – as well as a decently quick cruise speed up to around 170 mph (270 km/h). The range figure in particular seems optimistic given current battery technology and the fact that the design doesn't seem to go too far out of its way in the name of efficiency, but I guess we'll see.

Beta is designing a five-passenger version it'll use as an air taxi, as well as another capable of carrying 200 cu ft (5.6 cu m) worth of cargo. Presumably this is the one UPS has signed up to buy, with an initial commitment of 10 aircraft at an undisclosed price, and a further option to take the total to 150.

The Aria's layout incorporates four vertical lift props
The Aria's layout incorporates four vertical lift props

UPS expects to have the first 10 Arias in 2024, assuming certification proceeds according to plan; Beta is already ahead of much of the market, with a full-size aircraft already flying under experimental classification – albeit without the vertical lift system operational, it would seem.

This is not an insignificant achievement, though, as evtol.com points out: "The Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t allow experimental aircraft to fly beyond their base airports until they’re proven stable enough to do so, so [the Aria's recent flight between Plattsberg, New York, and Burlington, Vermont] represents that achievement and a closing of the initial phase of flight test."

Still, that doesn't guarantee that the process of eVTOL certification will be easy, or that the 2024 manufacturing timeline will happen. We'll have to wait and see.

UPS plans to build VTOL pads for these aircraft at certain depots, with charging infrastructure in place to keep them topped up. It plans to use them either on a single, long route or a series of shorter ones per charge, and a press release hints at where UPS feels they'll come in handy: "UPS’s use of the aircraft will benefit healthcare providers, thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, and other companies in smaller communities."

The battery packs, once they've outlived their safe lifespan in the eVTOL aircraft, will be recycled as buffers into the charging stations, or into UPS's fleet of electric vans and other ground vehicles.

Beta's prototype is already well into flight testing, and the company expects to be certified and in production by 2024
Beta's prototype is already well into flight testing, and the company expects to be certified and in production by 2024

“This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers, and the environment,” says 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.”

“We’re combining simple, elegant design and advanced technology to create a reliable aircraft with zero operational emissions that will revolutionize how cargo moves,” adds BETA founder and CEO Kyle Clark. “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.”

This kind of announcement, in recent months, has tended to come with luggage, in the form of a SPAC merger stock exchange listing. But we've combed over the press release, as well as Beta's website, and it doesn't seem the company is passing the collection plate around at this stage. So we can enjoy this news unencumbered.

Source: UPS via eVTOL.com

View gallery - 5 images
5 comments
5 comments
Towerman
Now this is big news ! Pushing the industry to the next stage is critical and apart from travel that is going to be big, deliveries from major postal services is bound to hasten the actual infrastructure and everyday real life implementation of the drone service industry.
David
No surprise that vertical flight testing has not begun, not with props like those. Presumably the ones fitted are for show only, and testing with a representative mass, while the functional ones will have more useful blades.
dan
why do they tell us such nonsense ? we all know that it takes years to build an aircraft, then years to certify, but in 2021 we all are still missing the fundamental technology e.g. batteries to fly with... And once ready, it will likely not be for normal delivery. If any company shows interest in these eVTOL today, it is most of all for their PR, so we can read about these companies... please, always present real numbers, not just nice render images and hopeful thoughts!
Daishi
There are auto companies that can't get an EV from prototype to production in under 3-4 years and that's a mature well established technology at this point. I think I have better odds of winning the lottery twice this year than seeing UPS making deliveries using a production eVTOLs in 2024 and I don't even buy lottery tickets. If I weren't such a trusting optimist I'd think a lot of these big claims are made by eVTOL companies and early investors as a cash grab or pump and dump stock scam hoping to offload their assets on someone else or sell the company before they ever need to deliver on their unrealistic claims. Initial Coin Offerings died off so now eVTOL SPAC's and claims being in production in 2-3 years are the next get rich quick scam.
toni24
This sounds like a great idea and should be here before the 2024 date. Ss I live totally off grid on a road that is so bad that UPS will not deliver up here and a VTOL delivery aircraft woud make delivery a total gold mine for me/