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Amazon And UPS Are Betting This Electric Aircraft Startup Will Change Shipping

Harvard grad and former pro hockey player Kyle Clark’s startup Beta is on the verge of bringing workhorse battery-powered cargo planes to America’s skies that can take off and land like helicopters.

When he played minor league hockey in the early 2000s, Kyle Clark says his teammates would spend the long bus rides talking about the drugs they’d taken last night and who’d brought a hooker into their hotel room. Clark, a bruising 6-foot-6 enforcer, would bury his nose in textbooks on how to build airplanes. Pretty nerdy – but he’d even stood out as an engineering egghead in the locker room at Harvard, where his teammates had nicknamed him Beta.

Clark never made the NHL, but 20 years later, his startup Beta Technologies is valued at a billion dollars and is on the cusp of making the major leagues with Alia, a potentially groundbreaking electric aircraft.

Alia, whose gracefully angled 50-foot wingspan Clark says was inspired by the long-flying Arctic tern, is one of a slew of novel electric aircraft that aviation upstarts are building that take off and land vertically like a helicopter. Virtually all of Beta’s competitors, including billionaire Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk and the SPAC cash-rich Joby Aviation, aim to transport people, enabling urbanites to hopscotch over traffic-snarled city streets. But Clark designed Alia primarily as a cargo aircraft, betting that a big market will develop for speeding eCommerce to and from suburban warehouses long before air taxis are considered safe to allow over city streets.

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