April 07, 2021 at 08:43PM

UPS has ordered electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft from Beta Technologies, with the option of purchasing 150 additional plans for its UPS Flight Forward subsidiary.

“This is all about innovation, with a focus on returns for our business, our customers and the environment,” Juan Perez, UPS chief information and engineering officer, said in a press release on Wednesday (April 7). “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.”

The package delivery giant has over 12,000 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles in its global grounds fleet, and is receiving another 10,000 electric delivery vans from Arrival. 

The BETA aircraft, which is reportedly “whisper-quiet,” will depart from and arrive at UPS properties. It can carry a 1,400-pound load and is anticipated to improve time-in-transit, vehicle emissions and operating expenses. The aircraft will be used to move time-sensitive packages faster and more sustainably than fixed-wing aircraft, and will also assist medical providers and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in getting critical items faster. The new fleet is expected to be delivered to UPS in 2024.

The eVTOL aircraft use four fixed vertical lift propellers and one pusher propeller for forward flight. They charge in under one hour, produce zero operational emissions, and can travel 250 miles at speeds of up to 170 miles per hour on a single charge.

“We’re combining simple, elegant design and advanced technology to create a reliable aircraft with zero operational emissions that will revolutionize how cargo moves,” said BETA Founder and CEO Kyle Clark. “By utilizing vertical takeoffs and landings, we can turn relatively small spaces at existing UPS facilities into a micro air feeder network without the noise or operating emissions of traditional aircraft.”

The acceleration in eCommerce triggered by COVID-19 helped to boost revenues for UPS by some 21 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2019, while operating profit was up 26 percent. Meanwhile, the surge in demand for delivery brought to light logistical challenges that major players have been working to combat. 

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