UPS plans to purchase up to 150 electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircrafts from Vermont-based Beta Technologies through its UPS Flight Forward subsidiary, to augment its air service for select small and mid-size markets.
UPS says the BETA aircraft’s 1,400-pound (635 kilograms) cargo capacity is ideally suited to more quickly and sustainably transport time-sensitive deliveries that would otherwise fly on small fixed-wing aircraft.
UPS expects its new fleet to benefit healthcare providers, small and medium-sized businesses, and other companies in smaller communities, with the aircraft flying either one long route or a series of short routes on a single charge to meet customers’ needs.
With a 250-mile (400 km) range and cruising speed of up to 170 mph (270 km/h), UPS will be able to plan a series of short routes, or one long route, on a single charge to meet customers’ needs.
The first ten BETA aircraft are scheduled to begin arriving in 2024, with an option to purchase up to 150 of the aircraft.
“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 groundbreaking, 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’re combining simple, elegant design and advanced technology to create a reliable aircraft with zero operational emissions that will revolutionize how cargo moves,” said 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.”
UPS has also reserved BETA’s recharging station for a seamless and 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, and announced a commitment to purchase up to 10,000 Arrival electric vehicles.