Beta Technologies, Inc.
South Burlington, Vermont, USA
Beta Technologies, founded by entrepreneur Kyle Clark, is developing an eVTOL aircraft. The company is one of several electric VTOL companies receiving funding from Martine Rothblatt’s United Therapeutics. Their first technology demonstrator was called Ava XC.
Alia is an all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, the main purpose is to transport human organs for their customer United Therapeutics.
The goal with Alia 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 (using electric motors).
The main purpose of this aircraft is fly two (2) people for organ transplant missions from hospital to hospital. The eVTOL aircraft will have a range of 250 miles (400 km). The company’s future plans are to also make a passenger aircraft as well.
On June 12, 2020, Beta Technologies revealed their full-scale Alia 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 90,000 km (56,000 mi).
The Alia 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.
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.
Beta Technologies, in less than three years, have developed a rapid recharging station for eVTOL aircraft. The landing pad can be used for almost any VTOL aircraft including passenger eVTOL aircraft, helicopters or cargo delivery drones. They even sell a stand alone fast charge inverter without the station.
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 made from shipping containers due to the high strength of these containers, 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.
Features of the charging station
- On-site Maintenance & Repair Workshop
- Pilot Lounge
- Sleeping Accommodations for pilots
- Warehouse units
- Battery Energy Storage
- Solar array
- Elevated Landing Deck
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.
Also, by powering an aircraft during peak hours (during the day when the price of electricity is highest), by powering an eVTOL aircraft from batteries, it keeps the cost of electricity down. Then the batteries can be recharged in the middle of the night when electric 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 helps with security when a fence around the facility is installed. These stations can be installed in any urban area, at airports, remote locations and places where there are harsh conditions.
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 lbs (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.
- Aircraft type: eVTOL
- Capacity: 2 passengers and cargo
- Lifting propellers: 4
- Forward flight propeller: 1
- Range: 250 miles (500 km)
- Payload: 6,000 lbs (2,720 km)
- Power source: Batteries
- Safety: Lifting propellers above the fuselage to eliminate head injuries from passengers or maintenance crew. Distributed electric propulsion (DEP) increases safety because if one lifting propeller fails, the remainder lifting propellers can safely land the aircraft.
- Beta Technologies website
- Article: Oshkosh e-AirVenture, Vertiflite, Sep/Oct 2019
- Article: How HUMS Could Help eVTOL Leverage Predictive Maintenance, MRO Network, Nov. 5, 2019
- Article: Beta Technologies shares sneak peek at new eVTOL at TexasUP, EVTOL 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, EVTOL, Apr. 25, 2020
- Article: Beta Develops eVTOL Charging Station, evtol.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