UPS reveals plan to buy hundreds of helicopter-like electric aircraft to buzz around cities delivering packages - take a look

Thomas Pallini
·5 min read
Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. UPS
  • UPS is planning to buy electric takeoff and land aircraft, or eVTOLs, to transport packages.

  • Beta Technologies' Alia-250C is the shipping giant's eVTOL of choice, with options for 150 aircraft.

  • The electric aircraft can carry 1,400 pounds of payload and travel up to 250 miles emission-free.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

UPS is going electric - in the air.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. UPS

The shipping giant plans to add electric vertical take-off and land aircraft, or eVTOLs, to its fleet of delivery vehicles and has selected Beta Technologies' Alia-250c as the launch aircraft.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. UPS

Read More: UPS is splashing out for 10 futuristic electric aircraft that could revolutionize package delivery. Here's how the investment could give the company a competitive leg up.

The eVTOLs will help UPS reach smaller and medium-sized markets by air but avoid airports altogether. Much like helicopters, the aircraft don't require a runway and can land directly at UPS facilities to minimize transit times and get packages to their destinations sooner.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. UPS

"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," Juan Perez, UPS' chief information and engineering officer, said in a statement.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. UPS

The Alia-250c boasts a 250-mile range, enough to fly between New York and Washington or Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and a top speed of 170 miles per hour all while carrying loads of up to 1,400 pounds.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. Beta Technologies

Source: Beta Technologies

Four fixed propellers provide vertical lift while one propeller pushes the aircraft forward.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. Beta Technologies

One sector that UPS says would benefit from the reduced delivery times is healthcare providers. Some medicines, like vaccines, have a short shelf-life and need to get to their destinations quicker than other merchandise.

UPS
UPS workers handling packages. UPS

The eVTOLs can be recharged in under an hour, allowing for quick turnaround times in between flights while cargo is loaded and unload.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. Beta Technologies

Once the first life cycle of the aircraft's batteries is used up, they can be fitted to charging stations to charge aircraft and UPS' fleet of electric vehicles.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. Beta Technologies

Electric aircraft also have the benefit of being quiet and emission-free while in flight.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. UPS

UPS already achieved the required certification to fly the eVTOLs when the Federal Aviation Administration gave UPS Flight Forward "certification to operate a drone airline."

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. Beta Technologies

The FAA allows UPS to fly payloads of up to 7,500 pounds, well beyond the ALIA-250c's carrying capability of 1,400 pounds.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. Beta Technologies

The Alia-250c aircraft will be piloted but may be operated autonomously in the future. UPS also has authorization for autonomous flights.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft simulator. Beta Technologies

UPS' eVTOL fleet also won't look like its all-brown delivery trucks.

UPS truck
AP

Renderings show the aircraft painted in the same colors as UPS Airlines, a mostly white exterior with the company's signature brown towards the rear fuselage with a yellow stripe.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. UPS

Here it is on a UPS Airlines Boeing 747-8F.

UPS Airlines Boeing 747-8F
A UPS Airlines Boeing 747-8F aircraft. Thiago B Trevisan / Shutterstock.com

UPS' commitment to eVTOLs follows a $1 billion order from United Airlines of similar aircraft from Archer.

Archer Aviation electric aircraft VTOL
Archer Aviation

Read More: United just ordered $1 billion worth of eVTOLs from a startup that aims to launch intra-city passenger flights in 2024

United plans to use the aircraft to shuttle passengers to and from major airports in congested cities like Los Angeles.

Archer Aviation electric aircraft VTOL
Archer Aviation

EVTOL and urban air mobility companies are currently riding a wave of new funding from special-purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs.

Archer Aviation electric aircraft VTOL
Archer Aviation

Joby Aviation is going public through a merger with a SPAC backed by Reid Hoffman in a deal valuing the company at $6.6 billion.

Joby Aviation eVTOL
Joby Aviation

Read More: EVTOL startup Joby Aviation is going public with a $6.6 billion valuation and plans to start passenger flights in 2024 — here's what we know about the company

Archer similarly announced plans to go public through a SPAC merger with Atlas Crest Investment Corp. in a $1.1 billion deal.

Archer Aviation electric aircraft VTOL
Archer Aviation

Blade, the helicopter company, is also going public via a SPAC with a KSL Capital Partners-backed company. The deal values blade at $825 million.

Zero G Experience Boeing 727
A Blade Bell 407 helicopter. Thomas Pallini/Business Insider

Read More: Helicopter taxi company Blade to go public via SPAC at near $1 billion valuation

And Beta Technologies might just be next, especially with a new heavy-hitting partner like UPS.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. Beta Technologies

UPS says the first 10 aircraft are slated to arrive as early as 2024.

Beta Technologies eVTOL UPS
A rendering of Beta Technologies' eVTOL aircraft. UPS

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