About 1.5 years after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) granted UPS Flight Forward the ability to start a drone airline business, UPS Flight Forward announced Wednesday plans to purchase electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Beta Technologies.
The first ten BETA aircraft are scheduled to enter UPS Flight Forward's fleet by 2024, with an option to purchase an additional 150 more. Each eVTOL aircraft can carry upwards of 1,400 pounds of cargo and take off and land at UPS facilities in small and mid-size markets.
Ideally, the BETA aircraft will transport time-sensitive packages that would otherwise fly on small fixed-wing planes. The aircraft has a distance of 250 miles and can cruise at 170 mph. UPS will integrate the fleet of eVTOL aircraft for short routes that will ultimately speed up delivery times.
"This is all about innovation with a focus on returns for our business, our customers, and the environment," said UPS Chief Information and Engineering Officer Juan Perez.
Perez continued: "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 eVTOL is designed to fly autonomously as UPS Flight Forward received the first FAA Part 135 Standard air carrier certification to operate a drone airline in 2019. The FAA certification will allow UPS to eventually fly payloads up to 7,500 lbs. with an operator or autonomously.
UPS Flight Forward's future plans appear to be riveting as the package delivery and supply chain management company will soon begin to integrate large unmanned aircraft systems into our airspace to improve the delivery of time-sensitive packages across metro areas and regions.