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A move by package delivery giant UPS could shape the future of drone delivery in the supply chain on a large scale.
The company plans to purchase electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, expanding its air service to small and mid-size markets. “These aircraft will take off and land on-property at UPS facilities in a whisper-quiet fashion, reducing time-in-transit, vehicle emissions, and operating cost,” says the announcement.
“BETA’s aircraft are designed to someday operate autonomously as technologies and regulations are established, ” says the announcement.
“UPS Flight Forward received the first U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 135 Standard air carrier certification to operate a drone airline, and is operating daily revenue-generating flights with drones. The FAA certification also enables UPS Flight Forward to fly payloads of up to 7,500 lbs. either with an operator or autonomously.”
The BETA aircraft have a 1,400-pound cargo capacity, and can quickly transport deliveries that would otherwise fly on small fixed wing airplanes.
The VTOL aircraft will serve healthcare providers, small and medium-sized businesses, and other companies in small communities. “With a 250-mile range and cruising speed of up to 170 miles per hour, UPS will be able to plan a series of short routes, or one long route, on a single charge to meet customers’ needs,” the release explains.
“By utilizing vertical takeoffs and landings, we can turn relatively small spaces at existing UPS facilities into a micro air feeder network without the noise or operating emissions of traditional aircraft,” BETA announced.
UPS also plans to use BETA’s recharging station, which can recharge the aircraft in under an hour, enabling a quick turnaround for loading and unloading of cargo, according to dronelife.com.