UPS invests in electric aircraft for zero-emission deliveries

Pictured: An artist render of the aircraft

UPS and its Flight Forward subsidiary have confirmed plans to purchase electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Beta Technologies (BETA). The aircraft can charge in up to an hour and produce zero operational emissions provided they are charged using renewable electricity.

The aircraft have a 1,400-pound cargo capacity and will enable the delivery of healthcare equipment and items for small and medium-sized businesses that would otherwise fly on small, fixed-wing aircraft.

The BETA models will take off and land at UPS facilities and have a 250-mile range while reaching speeds up to 170 miles per hour. UPS believes the aircraft will enable multiple short routes or one long route to be planned on a single charge.

The first ten BETA aircraft are scheduled to begin arriving in 2024, with an option to purchase up to 150 in total.

“This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers, and the environment,” UPS’s chief information and engineering officer Juan Perez said.

“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 aircraft are designed to incorporate autonomous flight technologies once regulations for such technologies are approved.

UPS has also reserved BETA’s recharging station, which offers a second life for spent aircraft batteries. Once the batteries have reached the end of their life, they can be fitted into the charging infrastructure to recharge new onboard aircraft batteries as well as UPS’s electric vehicle (EV) ground fleet.

Currently, UPS operates more than 12,000 alternative fuel vehicles. Last year, UPS announced an investment into Arrival, which will see the delivery firm purchase 10,000 EVs to be built for UPS globally. UPS will collaborate with Arrival on new EV systems designed to increase safety and explore automated driving.

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

“By utilising 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.”

Matt Mace

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