The development trajectory of electric aircraft received a big boost on Tuesday when BETA Technologies announced it had raised $368 million in a private round of fundraising led by Fidelity Management & Research Company.
Additional investors included Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund and unnamed new and returning investors. The South Burlington, Vermont, company develops and manufactures electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and the associated recharging system.
“We’re gratified for the confidence this diverse group of investors has placed in our team as we continue on our mission to transform how people and goods move about the world,” said Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of BETA. “These funds allow us to continue hiring the best talent, meet aggressive certification milestones, ramp up production of ALIA and accelerate the rollout of an extensive high-speed universal charging infrastructure.”
BETA said the funds will be used to move forward with development of its integrated electric vertical aviation (EVA) system. The centerpiece of the system is ALIA, an electric vertical aircraft capable of carrying up to 1,500 pounds of cargo or six people. BETA is working with industry in several areas, including logistics, medical and passenger, to develop and test the system.
“We support BETA Technologies’ mission to reshape air transportation through zero-emission aviation and are proud to invest in them through Amazon’s $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund,” said Kara Hurst, vice president and head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon. “The development of sustainable and decarbonizing technologies will help facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy and protect the planet for future generations.”
In early April, UPS (NYSE: UPS) announced it would take delivery of 10 BETA Technologies electric aircraft for use in small and midsize markets, with an option to purchase up to 150 of the planes in all. The package giant, which already has more than 12,000 alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles in its global fleet, with an order for 10,000 electric delivery vans from Arrival (NASDAQ: ARVL), will receive the first batch of eVTOL aircraft in 2024. The planes are being purchased for the 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 at the time. “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 has also received orders from Blade Urban Air Mobility and United Therapeutics. Blade Urban will take delivery of five ALIA aircraft in 2024 with an option for up to 20 additional units for use in airport transfers.
United Therapeutics will use the aircraft as air taxis to transport synthetic organs for human transplant. The company was the first customer of BETA and helped set the initial specifications for the ALIA aircraft.
“We’re delighted to welcome new investors to BETA. In the world of medical transport, it’s important that we create the most reliable and sustainable system for mobility in all weather conditions,” said Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics. “This new funding will accelerate BETA’s development. Electric-powered aviation is the future of on-demand organ transportation, and with the ALIA aircraft and charging network, that future is closer than we think.”
In March, BETA completed a test flight of the aircraft, flying from its home airport test facility in Plattsburgh, New York, to company headquarters at Burlington International Airport in South Burlington. The plane was piloted by test pilot Camron Guthrie, who climbed to 8,000 feet along the route.
ALIA has a wingspan of 50 feet and can be recharged in about 50 minutes. Each aircraft can have up to five battery packs installed. The expected range of the production planes is about 250 miles.
Last week, the U.S. Air Force granted airworthiness approval for BETA for inclusion in the AFWERX Agility Prime program. Agility Prime seeks to expand technology transition paths to accelerate emerging dual-use markets by leveraging government resources for rapid and affordable fielding.
Under a new contract to be signed in June, the Air Force will have access to the electric aircraft and first of their kind immersive electric vertical takeoff and landing simulators located in Washington, D.C., and Springfield, Ohio.
“This agreement will enable Air Force acquisition professionals to make data-driven decisions informed by real assessments of military utility,” said Col. Nathan Diller, AFWERX director.
BETA’s aircraft simulation and training facilities allow Air Force pilots and engineers to experience the future of electric vertical flight by rehearsing and testing the ALIA aircraft in a variety of potential mission sets and scenarios.