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UPS to buy eVTOL aircraft to speed up package delivery in small markets

An artist rendering of a new UPS aircraft.

Source: UPS

United Parcel Service takes delivery of package to new heights, literally, with the purchase of 10 electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft from Beta Technologies.

In a statement Wednesday, Atlanta-based UPS said it will test the eVTOLs for use in its Express Air delivery network with a focus on small and medium-sized markets. The company will operate the eVTOLs under its Flight Forward division, which is also investigating the delivery of drones.

The new type of aircraft, which looks like a cross between an airplane and a helicopter, “unlocks new business models that do not exist today,”

; Bala Ganesh, vice president of UPS Advanced Technology Group, told CNBC. “For example, you can see a future where it carries, say, £ 1,000, £ 1,500 to rural hospitals,” and lands on a helicopter pad instead of an airport.

Vermont-based Beta Technologies designs and builds the eVTOLs, which are expected to be delivered to UPS in 2024 pending certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. Beta also supplies landing pads and rechargeable batteries. UPS has an option to purchase up to 150 more eVTOLs. The price of the transaction was not disclosed. The EVTOLs can fly up to 250 miles at 170 mph on a single charge.

“We have also thought through some urgent moments, such as To bypass New York traffic, and then move it directly to our 43rd Street building so we can get congested, ”Ganesh said. “It does not suit all packages, but in certain applications: willingness to pay and urgency, we can potentially think of going into these areas.”

The EVTOLs will be used in the same way as small fixed-wing aircraft with a capacity of 500 to 3,000 pounds. UPS said it initially plans to use them in smaller markets and create a series of short routes or a long route to meet customer needs. According to Ganesh, the eVTOLs will have an operational advantage over small aircraft because they are designed to accommodate shipping containers, enabling faster movement of packages in many cases.

“The smaller planes are typically not containerized. They do not have any kind of container, so it loads a package into these planes, then lands it and then has to be loaded into a truck or another vehicle and then driven to another location, ty again, reloaded into the van that delivers it, ”Ganesh said.

Beta Technologies founder Kyle Clark said his team has been working with UPS to help transform how the company handles relocation packages.

“We combine simple, elegant design and advanced technology to create a reliable aircraft with zero operational emissions that will revolutionize how cargo moves,” Clark said in a statement. “By using vertical takeoff and landing, we can transform relatively small spaces at existing UPS facilities into a micro-air supply network with no noise or operating emissions from traditional aircraft.”

Sustainability has become increasingly important since Carol Tome became CEO of UPS last June. In its 2020 annual report, UPS said its goal is to reduce greenhouse gases from its core business by 12% and source 25% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2025.

In January 2020, UPS announced a commitment to purchase up to 10,000 electric cars from Arrival Group, headquartered in London and Charlotte, North Carolina. The EVTOL batteries are also compatible with these vehicles. Even when the first life cycle of the batteries in the aircraft ends, they can still be used in the EVs.

“It just creates easier operating models, which just makes things easier to implement and manage as we move forward,” Ganesh said, “creating newer ways of dealing, giving us more flexibility and optimally, reducing our costs.”

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