Beta Technologies, a Vermont-based company developing electric aircraft along with a network of charging stations, is expanding its partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense to install an aircraft charger at Eglin Air Force Base in western Florida. Later this year, Beta will send its Alia aircraft to Eglin, where the Air Force will use it for “on-base experimentation” as part of its ongoing efforts to explore defense applications for electric aircraft such as Beta’s Alia.
According to Beta, the Level 3 DC fast charger it’s bringing to Eglin will be the first-ever aircraft charging station to be installed on a U.S. Air Force Base. Beta already has its aircraft chargers online at 13 locations across the eastern U.S., and development work is underway to install them at another 55 locations along the East and Gulf Coasts.
The charging station will be able to support Beta’s aircraft as well as other electric aircraft and ground vehicles. Beta says it designed the chargers to the standards outlined in the General Aviation Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) recent white paper, “Interoperability of Electric Charging Infrastructure,” which most electric aircraft developers have agreed to follow.
Beta has been working with the U.S. Air Force since 2020 through its Afwerx Agility Prime program, which aims to foster public-private collaboration on the acceleration of electric aviation technologies for both the commercial and defense markets. Through that program, Beta became the first eVTOL developer to receive military airworthiness approval, and Air Force pilots have already had the chance to pilot Beta’s aircraft.
“The DoD, and specifically AFWERX’s Agility Prime team, have been invaluable partners to us for the past several years, offering deep insights that have helped us continue to progress our technology,” said Beta founder and CEO Kyle Clark. “The installation of this charger is an enabling step as the DOD looks to transition to a more sustainable fleet. We look forward to using it to charge our aircraft later this year during planned on-base experimentation with the Air Force at Duke Airfield.”
“Charging station installation is a critical step to unleash test and experimentation with the DoD to leverage emerging electric aviation technology as a capability for the warfighter,” said Maj Anthony Zartman, Agility Prime’s program manager and team lead. “Two charging test sites will be set up by the end of the calendar year, marking the first multimodal charging capabilities for the Air Force. Further, the charging stations will provide an opportunity to explore the utility of electric vehicle fleet modernization as well as base and flight line support equipment to improve energy use and reduce emissions.”
While Beta prepares to send its charger and aircraft to Eglin, rival eVTOL companies Joby and Archer are also planning to send their electric air taxis to Air Force bases. Joby has said it would deliver its first production-conforming aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California by early 2024. Meanwhile, Archer has said it aims to deliver its Midnight eVTOL aircraft to an unspecified Air Force base in the fourth quarter of 2023.
The Alia aircraft that Beta intends to deliver to Eglin will be its conventional airplane configuration, also known as a CTOL (conventional takeoff and landing) aircraft. While the company originally set out to develop an eVTOL aircraft, it recently decided to certify a CTOL version of the aircraft as well. Beta aims to have the six-seat aircraft certified and ready for commercial service in 2025.