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“VTOL” MEANS “VERTICAL take-off and landing” aircraft. Drones are VTOL; so are helicopters; and so are aircraft like the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, Hawker Siddeley Harrier Jump Jet, and Dornier Do 31.
An “e” prefix these days implies electric propulsion, rather a rarity in anything other than drones. However, beginning in December 2019, Harbour Air in Vancouver, British Colombia, has operated an electric-converted de Havilland Beaver seaplane.
Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits gleaned from two excellent sources on the latest in eVTOLs. One is “The Battery That Flies, by Ben Ryder Howe, in The New York Times, April 16, 2022. The other is “Electric Planes: They Have Arrived,” by Electric Future posted at YouTube, April 28, 2021.
The Right Stuff in Vermont. Ben Ryder Howe describes the Alia, an eVTOL built by Beta Technologies. This five-year-old startup is “the brainchild of Martine Rothblatt, the founder of Sirius XM and United Therapeutics, and Kyle Clark, a Harvard-trained engineer and former professional hockey player. It has a unique mission, focused on cargo rather than passengers. And despite raising a formidable treasure chest in capital, it is based in Burlington, Vt., population 45,000, roughly 2500 miles from Silicon Valley.”
Howe observes that “The board is stocked with players in finance and tech, including Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, and John Abele, founder of Boston Scientific. It has $400 million of funding from the government and institutions, including Amazon.”
Replacing Diesel-Spewing Box Trucks. Beta’s focus on cargo displays an innovative business model. “If it succeeds,” Howe writes, “it believes it will do more than make aviation history. In the company’s grand vision, electric cargo planes replace fleets of exhaust-spewing short-haul box trucks currently congesting America’s roads.”
“With a limit of 250 nautical miles per battery charge,” Howe explains, “the vehicles would land atop solar-powered charging stations made out of shipping containers, some equipped with showers, bunks and kitchenettes. (The cabinetry is Vermont maple.)”
Beta has also developed a stand-alone charger being placed at airports all over the country. Howe says, “A plane like Beta’s could be a catalyst for ‘decentralizing’ the hub and spoke system, the company hopes, taking dependence on shipping centers like Louisville and Memphis out of the equation and rebuilding the supply chain.”
A lofty goal indeed.
Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll look at Electric Future’s YouTube examination of eVTOLs. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com,2022
The Times does not mention that the Air Force test was conducted in conventional, not VTOL mode. Given the payload and range tradeoffs noted in your “Some VTOL Aircraft” post, and the FAA certification process, delivery of a viable VTOL to UPS in 2024 seems far-fetched. Realistic time-lines don’t make for headlines, I suppose.