Alia, The “Flying Battery,” Flight Tested

Brian McCowan, Zondits staff, 5/6/2022

Last month, Zondits reported on Alice, an electric commuter airplane that is currently under development and is now scheduled to be flight tested this summer. A second airplane, named Alia, has joined the mission to bring clean energy to aviation. Alia, developed by Beta Technologies, is intended for cargo service and a prototype is currently being flight tested in the skies over Lake Champlain in Vermont.

Beta Technologies was founded by Martine Rothblatt who previously founded Sirius XM Radio and United Therapeutics. The pharmaceutical venture was the main inspiration for Alia. Ms. Rothblatt recognized the need for a small, light aircraft that could quickly be deployed to transport organs and pharmaceuticals for emergency medical procedures.

The development of electric aircraft is not without challenges. Airplanes cannot be loaded down with banks of heavy batteries, therefore battery duration is limited. As with automobiles, that will improve as battery technology advances. Another hurdle is that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to certify electric engines as safe for commercial aviation. A record of successful flight tests will provide data needed to achieve safety certification.

“Every single person told me it was impossible,” said Ms. Rothblatt in an article first published in the New York Times. Beta Technologies now employs a staff of 350 and occupies several buildings at the Burlington Municipal Airport.

Read the New York Times article detailing the development of Alia and related electric-powered aviation.