Could the Cargo Planes of the Future be Battery-Powered?

An ambitious plan with ambitious technology

Beta Technologies' ALIA.
Beta Technologies

When thinking about the future of commercial flight, enthusiasm for the possibility of electric planes runs into an unfortunate quality of the batteries required to power them: they tend to be very heavy. This isn’t as much of a problem for cars and trucks, but when you need to get something off the ground and keep it there for a prolonged period of time, those questions of endurance become much more of an issue.

All of which might make the work being done by a Vermont-based company, Beta Technologies, that much more vital. A new article in The New York Times details the process by which they’ve developed an electric plane that doesn’t require a runway for takeoff or landing.

Beta’s initial aircraft, the Alia, is intended for cargo delivery. The article mentions that Amazon has invested in the company and that UPS has placed an initial order; several branches of the armed forces are also interested. There’s still a steep hurdle, however — before these plans can come to fruition, the F.A.A. needs to approve the technology behind it.

If the agency in question does go forward with their approval, however, the possibilities for use are almost limitless — from dropping off packages to transporting medical supplies to remote parts of the world. To do that, and without emissions, seems like a goal worth working towards.

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