U.S. Army supports Beta Technologies flight test program
By Jen Nevans | January 31, 2022
Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 12 seconds.
The U.S. Army has expanded its interest in the advanced air mobility (AAM) sector through a new contract with Beta Technologies.
“This partnership with the Army marks another important step in the military’s commitment to advancing and adopting sustainable electric aviation solutions,” said Kyle Clark, Beta’s CEO and founder, in a press release issued today. “We’re gratified by the continued support of the sector, and this allows us to accelerate our development of Alia as an incredibly safe and reliable logistics aircraft for both military and civil applications.”
Engineers from both the Army and Beta will work together to evaluate how the Alia can be used in Army missions. This includes measuring the aircraft’s range, altitude, endurance, and payload limits, before testing speciﬁc cargo and logistics missions.
According to its website, the Alia-250c is a lift-plus-cruise aircraft with a wingspan of 50 feet (15 meters). The eVTOL developer is targeting a range of 250 nautical miles (around 460 kilometers or 285 miles), with a maximum take-off weight of almost 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms).
This is Beta’s second partnership with a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. The Vermont-based AAM company was previously awarded the first airworthiness approval for a manned electric aircraft by the U.S. Air Force in 2021 to participate in ﬂight test campaigns as a part of the Air Force’s Agility Prime program.
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At the time, only California’s Joby Aviation had received a U.S. military airworthiness approval for an eVTOL aircraft, but that initial Military Flight Release (MFR) was for unmanned operations only.
The new contract with the U.S. Army is just the latest in a series of developments for Beta over the past year. To further expand its military relationships, Beta added additional military experts to its team last summer by appointing Dr. Will Roper, former Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, to its board of directors.
The company has claimed Alia’s fixed-pitched propellers and centrally located batteries make it a stable aircraft to fly and maneuver. Last year, the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) supported that theory by deeming the aircraft stable enough to complete multiple interstate flights — flying between its primary test location in Plattsburgh, New York, across Lake Champlain to the company’s headquarters in Burlington, Vermont.
Beta set company records for endurance, range, and altitude, reaching an altitude of 8,000 ft (2,440 m) during one flight, and a range of 205 mi (330 km) during another.The aircraft was flying in airplane mode with its drag-producing overhead lifting propellers removed. Only Joby Aviation has so far reported the longest full-scale eVTOL flight to date, covering a total distance of 154.6 mi (248.8 km).