The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

UPS Will Test Beta's Electric Aircraft in UAE Cargo Missions

Beta Technologies’ electric aircraft will soon be making cargo deliveries in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE has given United Parcel Service the green light to begin testing electric aircraft for cargo operations within its borders. 

According to a statement from the UAE government, the UAE Regulations Lab (RegLab) has granted UPS a temporary license to operate cargo-carrying variants of Beta’s electric aircraft as part of its efforts “to accelerate the shift towards sustainable and eco-friendly transportation modes and enhance the sustainability of the air cargo industry in the UAE.”

Vermont-based Beta has been developing its Alia-250 eVTOL aircraft for passengers and cargo since 2017, and just last week the company announced plans to certify a conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) version of the aircraft. When UPS starts flying Beta’s vehicles in the UAE, it will use the CTOL model, called the CX300, before introducing the eVTOL aircraft, which can take off and land vertically like a helicopter but flies like a regular fixed-wing airplane during cruise. 

The Alia-250 will have a cargo capacity of 1,400 pounds and a range of about 250 miles (400 kilometers), while the CX300 will have a longer range due to the lower power requirements for conventional airplanes than eVTOL aircraft. During flight tests, the CTOL prototype has flown up to 386 miles (621 kilometers) on a single charge. Both aircraft will be available in either cargo configurations or six-seat, passenger-carrying air taxis. 

“Given the geography of the region, our payload- and range-optimized design, and our charging infrastructure, the UAE sees a clear path to integrating this technology into air cargo operations via a phased approach," a Beta spokesperson told FutureFlight. "We will begin operations with the electric fixed wing before phasing toward eVTOL operations. We are aiming to begin flights in 2024, and these will be operational flights delivering real revenue-generating cargo. The routes and times we fly will be approved by the General Civil Aviation Authority.”

Beta says it expects to achieve FAA type certification for its new aircraft in 2025 and to begin delivering it to customers later that year. The company has already conducted extensive flight tests with a CTOL aircraft that was initially billed as a prototype of its Alia-250 eVTOL model. While the electric airplane has logged more than 22,000 miles (35,400 kilometers) during flight testing, Beta’s other prototype, which does have eVTOL capabilities, has so far conducted only hover flight tests. 

In 2021, UPS agreed to purchase up to 150 of Beta’s Alia-250 eVTOL aircraft to use for its cargo operations. Beta’s spokesperson did not specify whether that earlier agreement would include Beta’s newly announced CTOL airplane offering, or whether the companies plan to sign a new deal for the purchase of additional CX300s.