BLADE Urban Air Mobility has announced securing options for up to 20 BETA Technologies ALIA EVA (electric vertical aircraft) for order by BLADE UAM’s network of operators this morning via press release.
The announcement will allow BLADE’s network of operators the option to sign purchase agreements for the EVA, which would be delivered in late 2024, ahead of the initial projected readiness date of 2025. While other manufacturers have outlined challenges in achieving readiness by mid-2020’s, BETA continues to make significant strides to make and beat their timelines.
Additionally, BLADE will enter into a partnership with Jet Linx Aviation, LLC supported by Red Bird Capital Partners, related to the purchase of the ALIA EVA’s. Blade UAM CEO Rob Wiesenthal characterized the motivation behind the announcement, while also stating that BLADE will continue to remain open to other manufacturer’s aircraft as they become available: “Blade is laser focused on its transition from conventional rotorcraft to Electric Vertical Aircraft. The ALIA’s extremely low sound footprint, coupled with its zero emissions design, will enable us to reduce the noise and environmental impact to the communities surrounding the existing heliport and airport infrastructure we currently use. ALIA is a full scale EVA flying in piloted configuration almost every day.”
Wiesenthal also commented that the ALIA was well-suited for the challenging operational environment that the Northeast presents – cold winters, wind, and periods of inclement weather. Fortunately, the ALIA was developed in a similar environment in the Northeast and is well-suited to address those environmental concerns. A number of other entities have selected the ALIA for other uses – UPS for logistics and package delivery, United Therapeutics for organ transplant, and the Air Force for defense purposes. BLADE UAM’s selection and order of ALIA’s is the first landmark commercial passenger transport announcement for the BETA team.
Further, the two companies maintain a similar stature of operations – BLADE is already flying customers on demand in routes well suited to the ALIA’s capabilities, and BETA is already flying the ALIA EVA regularly during test flights. The two companies are in agreement that a full stack, vertical approach to the on demand commercial aerial mobility problem may be too large of a scope to effectively address, and that leveraging strengths is a more effective means for earlier deployment of EVA services to passengers.
The ALIA EVA includes a unique combination of elements that create a smooth, quiet flying experience, with applications for moving both people and cargo, all while producing zero operational emissions. According to BETA, ALIA can fly six people 250 nautical miles on a single charge and the aircraft is more than 10x quieter than a helicopter, imperceptible over normal urban noise and quieter than cars on a highway. As part of the agreement, BETA has committed that ALIA will meet the necessary specifications required to operate on Blade’s key routes prior to delivery. Purchases of ALIA EVA are conditioned on FAA type certification of the aircraft prior to the scheduled delivery date. Blade has committed to facilitate the purchase of at least five and up to 20 aircraft by its network of operators or third parties that will lease the aircraft to Blade operators.
BETA is currently in pursuit of Part 23 Certification with the FAA, and cites the simplicity of design of its aircraft as a key enabling feature to its future success. The ALIA has fixed pitch propellers, centralized batteries, and pragmatism of controllability that is crucial for safe, efficient operation.
Why it’s important: Following suit of UPS’ significant announcement last week for orders of the Alia EVA, BLADE Urban Air Mobility is proving complement to the confidence placed in BETA’s new aircraft, and is similar to UPS in that BLADE is already actualizing the end case – transportation of paying customers, on demand. The net change for BLADE will be an equipment swap, albeit a significant one with reduced noise foot print, operating cost, and increased efficiency. Fortunately, both BETA and BLADE will play to their strengths if the options for up to 20 ALIA EVA’s are exercised.