Beta Technologies’ Alia prototype has wrapped up its first deployment with the U.S. Air Force, which is evaluating defense applications for new electric air taxis and eVTOL aircraft. The Vermont-based aircraft developer had its Alia prototype stationed for three months at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle, where the company worked with the Air Force’s 413th Flight Test Squadron to conduct on-base experimentation and operational training.
Beta is developing eVTOL and eCTOL (conventional takeoff and landing) versions of its Alia aircraft, both of which will be available in cargo configurations or as five-passenger air taxis. While the company has said it expects the eVTOL aircraft to have a range of about 250 miles, the eCTOL prototype has already flown up to 386 miles on a single charge. The eCTOL model, called CX300, is expected to receive FAA type certification in 2025, with the Alia-250 eVTOL model to follow in 2026.
The U.S. Air Force has been working with Beta since 2020 via its Afwerx Agility Prime program, which aims to advance electric aviation technologies through public-private collaboration. Beta became the first eVTOL developer to receive military airworthiness approval, and Air Force pilots first flew on the Alia prototype in March 2022.
The prototype arrived at Duke Field, a military airport on Eglin AFB, in late October. Beta installed a charging station there in September to enable on-site recharging, which takes less than an hour using the company’s 350-kilowatt, Level 3 DC fast charger. In addition to its two electric aircraft models, Beta is building out a network of charging stations at airports across the U.S. to prepare for the launch of commercial services—and to recharge the Alia prototype during several cross-country treks. Beta has installed its chargers in at least 17 locations so far and has another 55 sites in the permitting or construction process. Just last week, the company installed one at Valdosta Regional Airport in Georgia.
ALIA DEMONSTRATES CASUALTY EVACUATION AND MAINTENANCE MISSIONS
During the Alia’s deployment at Eglin, the USAF tested several potential defense use cases for the aircraft, including personnel transport and the delivery of maintenance supplies. For this deployment, the aircraft “was configured for an array of cargo-focused missions” rather than the six-seat, passenger-carrying format, “so we did not need to reconfigure in these instances,” a Beta spokesperson told AIN.
Beta and the 413th Flight Test Squadron also conducted a simulated casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) exercise together with the 41st Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia. For the CASEVAC exercise, a quick reaction force (QRF) flying in an HH-60W combat rescue helicopter transported a Rescue Randy mannequin from a forward operating base (FOB) to another operating location in “friendly territory,” where the dummy patient was transferred to the Alia and flown to a medical facility.
Beta’s Alia prototype is pictured on the tarmac with an HH-60W combat rescue helicopter flying in the background
Beta’s Alia prototype conducted a simulated casualty evacuation mission in tandem with an HH-60W combat rescue helicopter. (Photo: Beta Technologies)
“This scenario demonstrates key impacts electric aviation can have on military services, including an increase in response time at the FOB,” Beta officials said in a statement. “The HH-60 was able to initiate the movement of the QRF sooner than if it had to move the patient to definitive medical care. The decision to transport the patient the total distance in the HH-60W [versus] stopping at an intermediate location is based on suitable runway availability and availability of an aircraft for transport such as a C-130.”
According to Beta, a similar CASEVAC mission using a C-130 to transport a patient requires at least three crewmembers and $1,600 in fuel, whereas the Alia completed the simulated mission with just two crewmembers and an energy cost of about $5.
The USAF also tested the Alia prototype in a simulated maintenance recovery team mission. The Alia was sent to collect parts for an F-35 that had landed at Duke Field. It flew from Eglin to the nearby Tyndall Air Force Base to pick up the simulated equipment and brought it back to Duke Field. The trip took about one hour of flight time and cost about $25 in electricity, whereas the same trip in a Ford F-250 would take four hours of driving and $45 worth of fuel, according to Beta.
With its USAF deployment under its belt, Beta’s Alia aircraft will ultimately make its way back to the company’s headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, but it’s not heading straight home. Flight-tracking data shows the aircraft has made numerous short flights around Savannah, Georgia, since it left Florida on January 22. Beta’s spokesperson declined to comment on the Alia’s recent flight activity but said the company intends to share more details about it at a later date.