Beta Technologies ALIA-250
Beta Technologies, Inc.
South Burlington, Vermont, USA
Beta Technologies, founded by entrepreneur Kyle Clark in 2017, is developing and will be manufacturing an electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft for advanced air mobility (AAM). The company announced in March 2023, it will also be manufacturing and selling an electric conventional takeoff and landing aircraft (eCTOL) as well. The company's first eVTOL technology demonstrator was the Ava XC. Beta Technologies has also created a modular rapid charging station that can be easily reconfigured for urban or rural areas. The company is one of several electric VTOL companies receiving funding from Martine Rothblatt’s United Therapeutics, to transport human organs. Beta announced in April 2022 that it had raised $375 million USD in a second round of financing, bringing its total financing to $796 million USD. As of 2023, the company has grown to 450 employees.
The ALIA-250 is a five passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that can also be used for air cargo transportation for advanced air mobility (AAM). The cargo version is called the ALIA-250c. The ALIA-250 has four VTOL propellers, one pusher propeller, has one high main arched wing, a large V-tail and has fixed quadricycle wheeled landing gear. The expected range of the aircraft is 250 miles (500 km).
The goal with the ALIA-250 is to keep the aircraft as simple as possible (which increases safety, a less complex aircraft has fewer things which can fail), to keep the aircraft as light as possible, carry a lot of energy using batteries and keep the aircraft as efficient as possible by using electric motors. The main purpose of this aircraft is fly two people and cargo, for organ transplant missions from hospital to hospital.
On June 12, 2020, Beta Technologies revealed their full-scale ALIA-250 eVTOL aircraft with four vertical lift propellers and one pusher propeller for forward flight. Clark says the shape of the all-electric aircraft was inspired by the Arctic tern, a strongly migratory bird which has the longest migrations known in the animal kingdom, taking complex indirect routes of up to 56,000 miles (90,000 km).
The ALIA-250 design includes “a twin-tail assembly supported by angled trusses, dramatically arched wings, and arcing, tapered wingtips.” according to a Wired Magazine article. The company is using fixed efficient vertical propellers to reduce the complexity of the aircraft, reduce the cost of manufacturing the aircraft, reduce maintenance needs, increase safety, and makes it easier to certify, to get the aircraft into the market place. The longer wing, the shape of the wing and the longer V-tail was designed to reduce drag and increases the stability of the aircraft at low speeds.
Because each set of propellers has a specific job (either lift or cruise), the design of the aircraft could be optimized without worrying about making any type of compromises, when compared to engineering tilting propellers. The company also manufactures its own electric motors to make sure the motors are completely customized for the aircraft. The battery cells are purchased from outside vendors but the battery packs are customized and completed in-house.
On November 9, 2020 a video showing a test flight of the Alia prototype was uploaded to the company's Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Beta Technologies is a US Air Force Agility Prime participant, as of May 29, 2020, and has passed Phase III of the Initial Capabilities Opening. Agility Prime is the US Air Force’s program to add eVTOL aircraft to their fleet. The Air Forces needs eVTOL aircraft for passenger transportation and cargo missions. For passenger aircraft, the eVTOL aircraft will need to have the capacity for three to eight passengers, speeds of 100 mph (161 km/h) or more, and with a range of at least 100 miles (161 km). For cargo missions, the eVTOL aircraft needs to be uncrewed with a maximum gross takeoff weight greater than 1,320 lb (599 kg).
The US Air Force foresees eVTOL aircraft used in such applications as search and rescue (SAR), medical evacuation, firefighting, disaster relief, humanitarian operations, logistics, special operations and other defense support.
On April 7, 2021, United Parcel Service (UPS) announced it will purchase up to 150 ALIA-250 eVTOL aircraft for time-sensitive cargo deliveries which will takeoff and land on at UPS facilities. The eVTOL aircraft will be used for UPS where normally small conventional airplanes are flown from airport to airport. UPS foresees this as a stepping stone to expand these cargo flights for other delivery services. The first aircraft are expected to be delivered to UPS in 2024. UPS also stated they have a growing fleet of electric vehicles and plans to charge both ground and air vehicles at their cargo facilities.
On April 13, 2021, Beta Technologies and Blade (based in New York, USA) signed a deal to purchase five ALIA-250 eVTOL aircraft with an option to buy 15 more. Blade was founded in 2014 and has 200,000 users and transported 40,000 passengers by helicopter in 2019. Blade has stated they have been limited to flying in and out of airports and existing heliports due to noise restrictions. However, since the ALIA-250v is very quiet, Blade is looking forward building and/or buying new infrastructure in areas where helicopters weren't allowed to fly before.
As of April 2021, Beta Technologies has four customers including United Therapeutics, the U.S. Air Force (through their Agility Prime program), United Parcel Service and Blade.
Beta Technologies, in less than three years, has developed a rapid recharging modular station for eVTOL aircraft. The landing pad can be used for almost any hybrid-electric or electric VTOL aircraft including passenger VTOL aircraft, helicopters or cargo VTOL delivery drones. The stations are modular allowing different configurations to fit in areas with space limitations or allowing the station to be scalable to any size allowing more than one aircraft to land at a time. The stations are easily adaptable to both urban, suburban and rural areas.
The station can be configured to have an elevated landing deck, include multiple types of rooms such as a lounge for the crew, kitchen area, lodging, patios, sleeping quarters, a maintenance and repair equipment workshop, storage areas, cargo storage areas and more. Other features can include large windows, sliding doors, outdoor lights, solar panels and heating and air conditioning. Sleeping rooms can be made available for the crew whether it’s for an hour or overnight. The stations with sleep quarters reduces the added expense of ground travel and cost of expensive hotels in urban or remote locations.
The stations are made from shipping containers due to the high strength of these containers which can resist harsh environments, are low in cost, are readily available, and are easily transported by ship, train or truck. Use of shipping containers in architecture is well-documented with online articles and there is even a Wikipedia page about the subject: Shipping container architecture
The station can include multiple types of rooms such as a lounge for the crew, lodging, patios, with features including large windows and heating and air conditioning. Sleeping rooms are available for the crew whether it’s for an hour or overnight. This feature reduces the added expense of ground travel and cost of expensive hotels in urban or remote locations. Based on need, the station can also be fitted with additional modules for warehousing cargo and for maintenance and repair equipment. The company even sells a stand alone fast charge inverter without the station.
Some optional features of the charging station
- Elevated landing deck
- Pilot Lounge
- Kitchen area
- Sleeping accommodations for pilots and crew
- Warehouse units
- Battery energy storage
- Solar array
- On-site maintenance and repair workshop
- Storage area
The stations would take power directly from the grid and/or from solar panels charging a bank of batteries. Having battery storage allows the station to charge eVTOL aircraft without the need to have heavy power lines installed for the station. Powering the station with solar panels and with battery storage allows the station to recharge the aircraft even if the grid lost power or was located in a remote location without power lines.
It should be noted that the cost electricity from utility companies during the day, is when the price of electricity is the highest. The lowest cost of electricity from power companies is at night. Therefore, by having charging stations with a bank of batteries available to charge the Alia aircraft during peak hours, keeps the cost of electricity down. Multiple studies also show that purchasing solar panels and batteries lower the cost of electricity over time, versus buying electricity directly from power companies. If a charging station is connected to the grid, and if and when needed, the station could charge their batteries in the middle of the night when electricity costs less money. If equipped, the station can also make it’s own power using a generator.
Having the landing pad above the structure also increases the safety of people and other objects on the ground, allows the station to be built in a smaller footprint when little space is available, and helps with security when a fence is installed around the facility. These stations can be installed in any urban area, at airports, remote locations and in places where there are harsh weather conditions.
In March 2023, the company revealed they will be manufacturing and selling their CX300, an electric conventional take off and landing (eCTOL) aircraft which uses the same airframe as the ALIA-250. The company has been flying the CX300 for several years and was originally made as a prototype to fly with the ALIA-250 to collect data and was never planned to be a certified aircraft. But as the company continued to fly the CX300, potential customers asked if they were going to sell it.
The CX300 as of March 2023 has flown 22,000 miles, has a maximum range of 386 miles on one charge, has crossed over multiple state lines, and has completed evaluation flights with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Army. According to one report, the CX300 is the only electric aircraft to have operated in the United States in class B and C airspace.
The CX300 uses the same airframe, avionics equipment, propulsion system and batteries as the ALIA-250 which is going through the FAA certification process. The CX300 is designed for short-haul passenger, medical and cargo flights at a lower operational cost. "More than a third of all global flights today are actually less than 500 miles," according to a Beta Technologies representative. The company has stated it costs $17.00 USD in electricity to fly the ALIA-250 150 miles while a turbine plane flying the same distance would cost $700.00 in jet fuel.
Beta Technologies stated as of March 2023, it is in the final stages of construction for their 344,000 square foot assembly plant at the Burlington International Airport (Vermont, USA) where both the ALIA-250 and the CX300 will be manufactured. The company plans to begin manufacturing aircraft in the summer of 2023. The company has already received multiple orders for the CX300 and is planning for serial production of the aircraft in 2025.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL passenger and cargo aircraft
- Capacity: 1 pilot and 4 passengers
- Range: 250 miles (500 km)
- Gross weight: 7,000 lb (3,175 kg)
- Propellers: 5 propellers (4 dedicated VTOL propellers and 1 pusher propeller)
- Forward flight propeller: 1 pusher propeller
- Electric motors: 5 electric motors
- Power source: Batteries, charging time is one hour
- Wing: 50 ft (15 meter) high arched wing
- Tail: Large V tail
- Landing gear: Fixed skids with quadricycle wheels, landing gear
- Safety: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers (or ducted fans) and motors on the aircraft so if one or more propellers (ducted fans) or motors fail, the other working propellers (or ducted fans) and motors can safely land the aircraft. There are also redundancies of critical components in the sub-systems of the aircraft. The VTOL propellers above the fuselage to eliminate head injuries from passengers or maintenance crew.
- Beta Technologies Ava XC (technology demonstrator)
- Beta Technologies website
- Beta Technologies Facebook
- Beta Technologies YouTube Channel
- Beta Technologies Instagram
- Beta Technologies LinkedIn
- Article: Oshkosh e-AirVenture, Vertiflite, September/October 2019
- Article: Beta Technologies shares sneak peek at new eVTOL at TexasUP, Vertical Magazine, Nov. 26, 2019
- Article: Flying Car Leaders Talk Public Perception at a Secret Summit, Wired, Dec. 4, 2019
- Article: A Rest Stop Where Flying Cars Can Recharge, Wired, Mar. 29, 2020
- Article: With AutoVENT, Beta Technologies steps up to a challenge, Vertical Magazine, Apr. 25, 2020
- Article: Beta Develops eVTOL Charging Station, Electric VTOL News, May 3, 2020
- Article: Beta, Joby advance in Air Race to Certification, US Air Force, May 29, 2020
- Article: A New Air Taxi Model Takes Design Cues From a Far-Flying Bird, Wired, June 12, 2020
- Article: Beta unveils its new eVTOL: the avian-inspired Alia, Vertical Magazine, June 15, 2020
- Article: US Air Force Primes the eVTOL Industry, Electric VTOL News, Mar. 3, 2021
- Article: Beta Technologies announces deal with UPS for up to 150 eVTOL aircraft, Vertical Magazine, Apr. 7, 2021
- Article: Electric vertical aircraft maker Beta expands to passenger flights in a deal with Blade, CNBC, Apr. 13, 2021
- Article: U.S. Army supports Beta Technologies flight test program, Vertical Magazine, Jan. 31, 2022
- Article: eVTOL Leaders Continue Apace, Vertiflite, July/Aug 2022
- Article: eVTOL Leaders Continue Momentum, Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2022
- Article: eVTOL on a Desktop, Vertiflite Nov/Dec 2022
- Article: eVTOL Leaders Continue Progress, Vertiflite, Jan/Feb 2023
- Article: Air New Zealand and 2 others have placed orders for a new electric 5-seater plane that can fly up to 386 miles — meet Beta's CX300, Business Insider, Mar. 15, 2023
- Article: Beta building a second, fixed-wing electric aircraft for cargo and passengers, Burlington Free Press, March 20, 2023
- Video: Audacious Goals - 386 mile all-electric flight, Beta Technologies, March 28, 2023
- Article: eVTOL Leaders Continue Developments, Vertiflite, Mar/Apr 2023
- Article: eVTOL Leaders Continue Advancements, Vertiflite Magazine, May/June 2023
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