BETA Technologies has delivered an ALIA electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft to the US Air Force for military tests.
The handover is part of Agility Prime, a program led by the service’s innovation arm AFWERX that seeks advanced aerial capabilities for tactical applications.
Among the effort’s core objectives is to acquire aircraft with zero emissions, a low noise profile, cost-effective functionality, and reduced dependency on conventional fuel sources.
The first flight test for this phase is scheduled for November 2023.
BETA’s ALIA eVTOL Aircraft
The ALIA’s wingspan measures 50 feet (15 meters), and it has a range of 250 miles (402 kilometers).
It has a maximum speed of 138 miles (222 kilometers) per hour and is 90 percent more silent in flight compared to existing helicopters.
The eVTOL has a maximum capacity of five personnel, while the upcoming demonstrations will evaluate the system’s limits in supporting agile combat and logistics operability with payloads of 1,000 pounds (453 kilograms).
“We are really excited about companies like BETA when they invent things like this,” AFWERX Director Col. Elliot Leigh stated.
“It is going to transform the way we see air travel in the world, but it is also going to transform the way we have air power in the Air Force. We’re going to learn what we can do with vehicles like this and we’re going to take it to our warfighters.”
413th Flight Test Squadron Leads Trials
Future Agile Program trials will be facilitated in coordination with the 413th Flight Test Squadron (FLTS) at Eglin Air Force Base.
“All of the testing will be contractor owned and operated, but the 413th FLTS wrote the test and safety plan,” 413th FLTS Flight Commander Maj. Riley Livermore explained.
“We are responsible for coordinating daily flight operations to include range scheduling and logistics support. Then we’ll write a report following the conclusion of the test deployment to report our findings.”
Progress in Agility Prime Program
AFWERX first collaborated with BETA in December 2019. In March 2022, the service completed the maiden flight of the ALIA aircraft in New York.
Earlier this month, the company established the air force’s first-ever military eVTOL charging station in Duke Field at Eglin.
“Part of the testing process was to install an aircraft charger on a military installation to capture lessons learned and hopefully inform and accelerate future projects at different bases,” Livermore said.
“The fixed charging station will also help us write procedures and safety requirements for the Air Force. They’re currently not defined because the technology is new.”