Sunday, June 16, 2024

Amazon invests in BETA Technologies to accelerate its climate goals

Startup BETA Technologies, which is building an electric plane that takes off like a helicopter, has raised $368 million in a private round of funding from Fidelity Management & Research and Amazon. These funds will support the continued development of an integrated system for Electric Vertical Aviation (EVA), which will reshape how people and cargo move while reducing the environmental impact of aviation.

The funding round was led by Fidelity Management & Research Company and joined by Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, which is looking for startups that can help the online shopping giant meet its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

BETA Technologies currently competes with dozens of startups and large companies, including Boeing and Cessna Textron, in the production of new aircraft that look like giant toy drones to transport cargo and, ultimately, people.

BETA’s fully-electric, zero-emission ALIA aircraft will be capable of flying 250 nautical miles (about 400 km) on a single charge and carrying six people, or a pilot and 1,500 pounds (680 kg). It includes a novel combination of elements that create a smooth and quiet flying experience.

Amazon hasn’t said exactly how it would use the aircraft, but its focus on cargo suggests ALIA would be used for short-hop deliveries in its logistics chain in the future that would otherwise require a small conventional aircraft or truck. BETA already has orders from UPS for 150 of BETA’s aircraft and charging stations to enhance its air service. Besides, Blade Urban Air Mobility and United Therapeutics plan to respectively use ALIA for small-scale passenger flights and synthetic organ transport. BETA recently received the first airworthiness approval for a manned electric aircraft from the U.S. Air Force in a critical step toward the adoption of electric aircraft.

The additional funds will allow BETA to continue building out technological capabilities to best support and serve its diverse customer needs across commercial, cargo, and defense applications. Further funding will be allocated to accelerate the production and manufacturing of BETA’s aircraft and the rollout of charging infrastructure, currently on track for a 2024 delivery.