UPS has revealed plans to purchase electric aircraft as an alternative to fixed-wing planes for time-sensitive deliveries .
The express giant said that through its UPS Flight Forward subsidiary it would purchase the electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) from Beta Technologies to augment its air service for select small and mid-size markets.
The first ten aircraft are scheduled to begin arriving in 2024, with an option to purchase up to 150 of the aircraft.
UPS said the 635kg capacity aircraft is suited for time-sensitive deliveries that would otherwise fly on small fixed-wing aircraft. They will take-off and land at UPS facilities.
“UPS’s use of the aircraft will benefit healthcare providers, thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, and other companies in smaller communities,” it said.
“With a 250-mile range and cruising speed of up to 170 miles per hour, UPS will be able to plan a series of short routes, or one long route, on a single charge to meet customers’ needs.”
UPS 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.”
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.
UPS said that the aircraft are designed to someday operate autonomously as technologies and regulations are established.
UPS Flight Forward received the first US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 135 Standard air carrier certification to operate a drone airline, and is operating daily revenue-generating flights with drones.
The FAA certification also enables UPS Flight Forward to fly payloads of up to 7,500 lbs. either with an operator or autonomously.
The electric aircraft are currently in a testing phase.