Two Firms, Two Milestones

Dean Sigler Announcements, Batteries, Biomimicry, Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation Leave a Comment

Two firms, one making both conventional take off and landing (CTOL) and eVTOL (electric Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft, and one making a CTOL capable of root-top operation, had major milestones in the last month. Beta Technologies Beta Technologies, founded in 2017 by Kyle Clark, developed its first craft.  Ava underwent test flights and even at that point attracted its first customer, “United Therapeutics, which under founder and CEO Martine Rothblatt was looking for efficient transportation methods for organs intended for human transplant.  United Therapeutics awarded Beta a $48 million contract” Finding Ava to be complicated, the Beta turned to a simpler approach.  The resulting Alia was further developed into both conventional and eVTOL configurations.  As a conventional, if rather swoopy-looking craft, Alia has flown along a network of charging stations created by Beta to provide overnight stays for pilots and an energy source for extended trips. The Alia demonstrated its ability to transition from a lift-off using the …

Nudging, Then Doubling an Electric Distance Record

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Suddenly, we’re seeing new electric aircraft nudging, then doubling an electric distance record.  First, Autoflight in China and then Beta in America achieve higher ranges than that previously achieved by Joby. Jules Verne Saw It Coming In two late 19th-century novels, Robur the Conqueror and Master of the World, Jules Verne chronicled the fictional adventurers of a mad inventor who thought he could dissuade world leaders from practicing war by bombing them from his Albatross flying warship.  A great deal like Captain Nemo of Nautilus fame, Robur uses violence to stop violence.  Both protagonists fail in their efforts. The Albatross, mistaken as its objectives were, is perhaps an inspiration for today’s eVTOLs, propellers spinning for lift and for forward motion.  Verne even prophesied fueling the Albatross with water, perhaps an early vision of today’s water-splitting to produce green hydrogen. Autoflight With far fewer rotors and propellers, Autoflight achieved a successful transition flight from vertical liftoff to forward flight.  This delicate …

Beta’s Alia Makes a Highly-charged Trip

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Beta Technologies has taken an all or nothing approach from its beginning, designing charging stations and flight crew centers to complement its aerial vehicles.  Last month, Beta got a chance to show at least part of its cross-country ambitions. A Six-State Outing From May 23 to May 24, Betas Alia 250 eVTOL (electric Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft made one of the longest cross-country flights at that time for such a vehicle.   Alia did not take advantage of its vertical capabilities, relying instead on conventional runway-borne takeoffs and landings. The total flight from Plattsburgh to Bentonville covered 1,355 miles (2,181 kilometers) and took almost 12 hours – about like a similar flight in a Cessna 172. Charging Stations Beta has planned well-thought-out charging stations to complement the craft and crews.  Each 480-Volt station has a landing platform roof, crew quarters with sleeping and bath accommodations and, of course, a charger.  The current route included stops where the Beta charging …

BETA and Blade Cut Deal for 20 Alia’s

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Business as Unusual BETA Technologies made a big move from its highly complex Ava to a simpler Alia, and managed to snag an initial order for up to 150 of its new craft from United Parcel Service (UPS).  This was followed by the signing of a binding agreement with Blade for another 20 craft for passenger service. Vermont Business Magazine reports that BETA Technologies started with its first customer and partner, United Therapeutics, which will rely on BETA’s aircraft to deliver organs for human transplantation.  High speed and reliability are obvious premiums in this endeavor.  Recently, United Parcel Service (UPS) announced it reserved the right to purchase 150 of BETA’s aircraft, with the first 10 to be delivered beginning in 2024. UPS also purchased BETA’s charging stations as part of an integrated solution. Gaining government backing, the United States Air Force Agility Prime program continues testing BETA’s machines.  The program, “Marshals government resources to accelerate commercialization of air mobility vehicles.” …

Beta Alia: Electric with Tern-like Grace

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A new aircraft’s first takeoff is usually performed under its own power, but the recent trip by Beta Technologies’ just-revealed Alia eVTOL (electric Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft was externally powered.  A 30-minute lift across Lake Champlain from Alia’s birthplace in Burlington, Vermont to its test site in Plattsburgh, New York was uneventful, but spectacular nonetheless. Helicarrier Assists on First Flight Hauled 100 feet below a Sikorsky S-61N from Quebec-based Helicarrier, the all-white, four-rotor Alia “crossed over the northern end of Burlington. With streets along its route blocked off by police, [it] then flew at a stately pace across the lake, usually just a few hundred feet above the surface of the water,” according to Vertical.com. Helicarrier, besides sharing a named with a Marvel Comics flying aircraft carrier and command center (fictional), performs real-life heavy lifts on anything up to 10,000 pounds.  In the case of the Alia transport, the lift was extra heavy based on the value of …

Air Race E Leaps Forward with Eight Teams

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The public got a glimpse of Air Race E at this year’s Dubai Air Show.  Jeff Zaltman, CEO of Air Race E and Sandra Bour-Schaeffer, head of XO Airbus Demonstrators, pulled the wraps on Team Condor’s converted Cassutt racer – one of eight teams entering the fray.   Race E is an update of the classic small aircraft races held following World War II, and many of the airplanes in the upcoming events will be re-motored and redesigned versions of these craft.  Formula 1 racing has not changed much since its 1947 inception. Most air small air racers relied on the Continental C-85 engine, mildly uprated and turning faster than it did in Aeronca Champions or Piper Cubs.  Formula E is the first major change and new technology in the field in over 70 years. With the advent of Air Race E, designers are encouraged to create new machines and rethink the means of propulsion.  At least eight organizations are …

Beta Technologies Testing Actual Prototype

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Kyle Clark heads Beta Technologies, an aircraft company flying under the radar until recently.  Beta’s prototype, based on an RDD LX7, uses eight electric motors driving one fixed-pitch propeller each.  These are mounted on rotating tubular arms that allow vertical takeoffs and landings with the propellers in horizontal orientation and a claimed 170 mph cruise when in vertical orientation. VT Digger, an independent non-profit journal, reports, “Using homemade flight simulators, an array of 3D printers, a machine shop, and a team of nearly 40 staff and contracted engineers, Clark has big plans for his self-funded company, which occupies a hangar and other buildings at the Burlington airport. He intends to stand out for creating an aircraft with a power system that enables it to achieve the longest flight range amongst its peers.” “’We’re going to develop the world’s longest-range, best-performing aircraft,’ he said.” Wired, in a snarky mode, describes the Beta Ava as looking, “like what Tony Stark would build …