Beta Technologies and Blade Air Mobility jointly announced what they call the “historic” first New York metropolitan-area flight today (Feb. 14) of Beta’s Alia-250 prototype electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The aircraft took off conventionally, but did have the lift propellers installed, according to Beta. There are two prototype aircraft, the company said. “One test article is configured for vertical takeoff and landing and one is configured for conventional takeoff and landing, since the aircraft will spend about 98 percent of flight time on the wing.”
Also known as an electrical vertical aircraft (EVA) and with a capacity of up to six occupants, the prototype made two flyovers down the runway at Westchester County Airport (KHPN). The two partner companies assess the decibel level of the aircraft in vertical-flight mode to be 1/10th that of conventional helicopters.
In April 2021, Blade announced an agreement to “facilitate the purchase of up to 20 of Beta’s first passenger-configured Alia-250 aircraft by its network of operators.” Blade, which currently provides services using conventional helicopters, said it plans to use the first Alia-250s within its network of terminals in the U.S. Beta has agreed to develop and install charging infrastructure at “key locations.”
As for the demonstration flight, a Beta spokesperson told AVweb, “Alia took off at 9:07 a.m., and completed two laps before touching back down at 9:20 a.m.” Of arguably more interest, she said the all-electric prototype flew the 250 nautical miles to KHPN from Beta’s facility in Plattsburgh, New York, with one stop. The spokesperson added, “We have also flown this prototype aircraft on multiple thousand-mile-plus missions, including from Plattsburgh to Bentonville, Arkansas, and to Louisville, Kentucky—charging on our own charging infrastructure, which we’re building out in parallel with our aircraft.” She said the Alia-250 takes less than an hour to recharge.
Blade currently provides services around the world. Rob Wiesenthal, Blade CEO, said, “This demonstration is a big milestone in our transition from helicopters to electric vertical aircraft, and we are pleased that our partners at Beta have designed the right aircraft with the requisite range, capacity, and noise profile, for use in our key markets, including our home base of New York City. We are confident EVAs will be a game-changer both for our company and New York City’s transportation system once certified by the FAA.”
Kyle Clark, Beta’s founder and CEO, said, “We continue to progress our aircraft, flying real-life missions and gaining proficiency in the national airspace. We were glad to be able to fly here from our flight test facility in Plattsburgh to work with Blade to operationalize our partnership.”
This video shows it didn’t even have the props mounted that are needed for VTOL.
The photo accompanying the article shows the lift blades mounted but oriented along the boom for minimum cruise drag.
As for the concept itself, don’t we already have a design that incorporates a rotating lifting surfaces with a pusher prop? Cierva demonstrated his autogiro nearly a century ago, landing and departing in minimal space in front of the White House and Capitol. Given that this design has practically zero tolerance for a failure in any single lifting motor, and the noise generated by four of them at vertical ops, how is this design an improvement?
Do you have a reference to show that it cannot tolerate a single motor out?
I’ve spent some time around an E-VTOL vehicle. It was quieter than a helicopter.
250 miles with one charge break.
So, 125 miles on a charge.
Lets take them at their word that it recharges in an hour.
Add in time in pattern, approach taxi, and landing and diversion to a charging station.
Let’s again give them the benefit of the doubt and say this adds only another hour to the trip.
Let’s again give them the benefit of the doubt that this travels VERY fast by helicopter standards, say 200 mph.
That adds up to 3 hours and 15 minutes to travel 250 miles so 77 MPH average. And this is a BEST case scenario, it would likely be slower.
They could have taken a Prius and saved a lot of trouble
Why do you think this one trip demonstrates max range? ALIA has already flown over 300 nautical miles in a single leg; the target for the certified vehicle is 250 nautical miles with the required 30 minute reserve.
250 nautical mile range, 105 knot cruise speed, vertical takeoff and landing, and fly in a straight line over the traffic; you’re surely going to beat that Prius. It’s not going to be for longer trips, but it’ll get you to the airport a lot quicker in a congested area than ground transport would.
The airports are only 215 miles apart apart so average speed is only 66.
Company website illustrates cruise speed at 105 mph, charging time 50 minutes.
United Parcel Service has an order in for 150 of them, first ones to be ‘ delivered ‘ to them by 2024.
Well, there it is. They claim to be in commercial mode after certification and acceptance in 2024. It is the same old BS non-attainable hype. This mode of transportation will eventually become some kind of reality but it won’t happen by 2024 or 2025 or 2026 or …. until there is some kind of a major breakthrough in portable energy storage.
It’s currently available. Jet A and 100LL/UK
The Prius would leave it for dead..
Flying from Manhattan to Teterboro might be a viable option. Average speed of traffic in NYC is less than 30mph.
Won’t even fly the Governor between her Albany & NYC offices. A hybrid would be more practical: electric to take off/land and turbine genset to power level flight, recharge now lightened battery load and extend range.
It’s already flown further than that many times. See for instance https://evtol.news/news/beta-alia-250-prototype-flies-cross-country-to-ohio where the RME-DKK leg is over 200 miles, and on other trips ALIA has broken 250 nautical miles.
What they have not told us is the range when in VTOL mode. That would consume far more energy than conventional mode (it is physics) and greatly diminish the effective range. Until battery technology has that milestone break-through ( and I believe it will some day), this is another good concept that is ho-hum practical.
Because range in VTOL mode is irrelevant? Like asking for the range of a V-22 in VTOL mode – why?
What is the range of your car with the hood open?
With six people on board, VTOL will consume significantly more juice from the battery than CTOL.
True even with no-one on board. That’s why it has wings. Red herring?
It’s designed for VTOL mode for only 30 seconds to a couple of minutes on takeoff and landing; other than that, it flies on the wing, with lift props stowed.
Yes VTOL mode take much higher power, that’s why it has a wing and pusher, and isn’t just a multicopter.
Cameron, what I improperly worded was what is the total effective range when VTOL is used, as it will consume far more energy than conventional takeoffs and landings. Sorry – me head knew what I wanted to ask but me fingers typed otherwise!
In the article, I missed an assessment of what the battery age is affected by discharging them with high power immediately after fast charging? Fast charging of large batteries requires high-capacity connections. How much, for example, does a 500 kW charging station cost?
And all this madness is based on the idea that man-made CO2 would have a devastating effect on the Earth’s climate and life. You would think that even one highly educated aeronautical engineer would have the capacity to think if the whole idea of electric flying is based on the world of fairy tales.
Electronic flying is possible and in some form even reasonable, but often the purpose of projects is just to take advantage of generous grants. I’m just waiting for someone to figure out how to get funding to develop the flying properties of the broom and the coffee pot.