BETA Tech­nolo­gies has been award­ed air­wor­thi­ness approval for a manned elec­tric air­craft by the US Air Force’s Agili­ty Prime pro­gramme, with its ALIA eVTOL air­craft hav­ing already begun fly­ing under the air force’s oper­a­tional flight test pro­gram.

The U.S. Air Force spent more than a year assess­ing ALIA, con­duct­ing deep dives into engi­neer­ing, oper­a­tions and flight test capa­bil­i­ties against the demand­ing mil­i­tary 516c stan­dard. Sub­ject mat­ter experts eval­u­at­ed every aspect of ALIA for safe­ty, design, and main­te­nance stan­dards, as well as par­tic­i­pat­ed in the flight test cam­paign plan­ning.

Under this con­tract, the air force will have access to the only manned, 7,000-pound class all-elec­tric air­craft known to be fly­ing in the world today. With this kind of open access and eval­u­a­tion of oper­a­tional test results, air force acqui­si­tion offi­cials will be able to make data dri­ven pro­cure­ment deci­sions to best meet the military’s tech­ni­cal needs and will be informed by real assess­ments of mil­i­tary util­i­ty in the field.

In addi­tion to field and real-life appli­ca­tions in the air­craft flight test pro­gram, BETA’s flight sim­u­la­tion and train­ing facil­i­ties allow Air Force pilots and engi­neers to expe­ri­ence the future of eVTOL air­craft by rehears­ing and test­ing ALIA in a vari­ety of poten­tial mis­sion sets and sce­nar­ios.

Col. Nathan Diller, Direc­tor of AFWERX at the Unit­ed States Air Force, said: “Achiev­ing the first manned air­wor­thi­ness autho­riza­tion in the Agili­ty Prime pro­gram is a key mile­stone. This not only unlocks the oppor­tu­ni­ty to begin Air Force direct­ed manned flight tests, but it also shows the high lev­el of matu­ri­ty of this tech­nol­o­gy and the high lev­el of matu­ri­ty of Agili­ty Prime part­ner com­pa­nies like BETA.”

Agili­ty Prime is designed to lever­age and accel­er­ate com­mer­cial inno­va­tion efforts. In a first of its kind arrange­ment, AFRL engi­neers used unique equip­ment and analy­sis capa­bil­i­ties to con­duct Ground Vibra­tion Test­ing (GVT), a method of dynam­ic struc­tur­al analy­sis on ALIA. This valu­able data pro­vid­ed by the GVT will be used to safe­ly advance the flight test pro­gramme safe­ly while pro­vid­ing valu­able insight to the US Air Force on nov­el air­craft design.

The advanced urban air mobil­i­ty tech­nol­o­gy sim­u­la­tor near the Air Force Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry (AFRL) in Spring­field, Ohio, also pro­vides easy access to the Air Force’s tech­ni­cal acqui­si­tion work­force, while the Wash­ing­ton, D.C. test facil­i­ty pro­vides an ide­al venue to immerse senior lead­ers and deci­sion mak­ers in the elec­tri­fied future. These state-of-the-art sim­u­la­tors are physics based and include weath­er, emer­gency han­dling, bat­tle dam­age, and advanced mis­sion sce­nario sim­u­la­tion.

Kyle Clark, BETA’s Founder and CEO, said: “Elec­tric avi­a­tion is a Nation­al Secu­ri­ty pri­or­i­ty and for­tu­nate­ly this was rec­og­nized ear­ly by the Air Force. The speed and effi­cien­cy of the Air Force Agili­ty Prime pro­gram to sup­port sus­tain­able elec­tric avi­a­tion has been remark­able. The peo­ple and exper­tise that the Air Force has brought to the elec­tric avi­a­tion indus­try and specif­i­cal­ly our ALIA pro­gram is accel­er­at­ing the devel­op­ment of incred­i­bly capa­ble, safe and reli­able air­craft.”

Last month, BETA advanced to the next phase of its flight-test­ing pro­gramme, com­plet­ing an inter­state flight with ALIA from Platts­burgh, New York to Burling­ton Inter­na­tion­al Air­port in South Burling­ton, Ver­mont.

In accor­dance with FAA pro­to­cols regard­ing the abil­i­ty of exper­i­men­tal air­craft to fly beyond a des­ig­nat­ed test area, BETA had to com­plete com­pre­hen­sive test­ing to ensure reli­able and pre­dictable air­craft han­dling and per­for­mance. In the same week ALIA flew its first inter­state flight, the air­craft set a new BETA record for endurance, range, and alti­tude.

BETA will con­tin­ue test­ing air­craft capa­bil­i­ties and mis­sion applic­a­bil­i­ty includ­ing range, alti­tude, endurance and pay­load lim­its before test­ing spe­cif­ic car­go, logis­tic and oth­er mis­sions.

The qui­et elec­tric propul­sion has a very low ther­mal and acoustic sig­na­ture, enabling the air­craft to com­ple­ment exist­ing ground and air vehi­cles with new capa­bil­i­ties. Cost, main­tain­abil­i­ty and avail­abil­i­ty will be tracked and eval­u­at­ed dur­ing oper­a­tional test and eval­u­a­tion. All of these ben­e­fits come with zero oper­a­tional emis­sions, an impor­tant part of the Armed Forces sus­tain­abil­i­ty goals.

Recent­ly, BETA added to its grow­ing cus­tomer list secur­ing agree­ments with BLADE and UPS for its ALIA air­craft and charg­ing sta­tions.

BETA Tech­nolo­gies fol­lows on from a sim­i­lar announce­ment by Joby Avi­a­tion in Decem­ber 2020, after the com­pa­ny’s four-seater pro­to­type was announced as the the first eVTOL air­craft to pro­vide trans­porta­tion for mil­i­tary staff.