How an aerospace company is using AWS Cloud technology to test and build battery-powered airplanes

Beginning of Vermont Beta technology wants to fill the skies with full-scale, battery-powered aircraft. Airplanes that carry cargo and transport people with a low impact on the planet. Electrifying wheeled vehicles like cars, trucks, and bicycles used to be a simple problem to solve, but getting today’s heavy batteries into the sky is much more difficult. And for Beta Technologies, that means testing, testing, and more testing.

Like the Wright brothers in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Beta Technologies is constantly tweaking prototypes of the craft – full-scale and miniature versions – to understand which components work as intended and which don’t. But unlike the Wright brothers, who knew that unless it fell from the sky, a model was built, tiny sensors and high-performance cloud computing are a more nuanced and data-driven way to pioneer new approaches. to fly Using AWS, Beta Technologies processes and analyzes data streams during each test. The prototype aircraft transmits about 1,000 data points to ground consoles about 100 times per second.

Beta Technologies founder and CEO Kyle Clark stands in front of a plane and helicopter.

Kyle Clark, Founder and CEO of Beta Technologies.

“Because we use computational fluid dynamics and system modeling, we have a complete plan-model of the aircraft,” said Kyle Clark, founder and CEO. “We can then take all that data and ‘fly’ the full-scale aircraft again in a simulated environment to make those models better and better. This allows us to build the final aircraft faster.”

If it feels like Beta Technologies is starting from scratch, building an electric-only plane is because it’s reimagining the plane’s entire mechanical system. Traditional fossil-fuel-based craft have many limitations: fuel storage, pipelines, machinery for distributing fuel to engines, heating and cooling systems, exhausts, and more. With an electric motor, most of that disappears, and new engineering questions take its place.

However, according to Clarke, the use of electric motors “needs way easier than fossil fuels.”

An overhead view of a small, aerodynamic, white aircraft with four small rotors on top of the ship.

Clark explains that Beta Technologies is able to attach the props to the back of the fuselage instead of the front because their planes don’t need air to cool the fuel and electric engines are more efficient than fossil fuel engines. This makes the entire ship more aerodynamic, reducing drag and improving efficiency. And because the electric motor provides constant torque, Beta Technologies can mount four small rotors on the top of the craft for helicopters, drones, etc., so the aircraft can take off and land vertically.

“If we use the technologies we already have and deploy them more quickly, we will turn climate change around faster,” Clark said. “By having better (power usage) estimators based on data, we’re able to use more batteries, which means we have a more useful product.”

The ability to take off and land vertically eliminates the runway, a huge component of modern aviation. Beta Technologies’ craft can land on rough terrain like a helicopter, so it can access multiple takeoff and landing areas, including parking lots and hospital roofs. The company’s first customers are organ donation centers. The process of organ preparation in the recipient’s body requires several point-to-point transfers, which are made more efficient by fast and precise aircraft.

Small planes fly over the tree-lined buildings and the pool beyond

No amount of iteration and development to get to their original design would have been possible without engineers, mechanics, developers, product managers, field testers and managers all working in the same cloud environment, Clark said.

“When we release a new code, we do everything from the code check, the simulation environment, the small aircraft, the Ironbird flight simulator, everything before we fly the larger aircraft,” Clark said. Therefore, all headers, data, and data rates must be parsed by the same tool. At Ironbirds, we get all the data points in the same format that we get on a real plane, so an engineer can use the same tools for analysis here. They do flight tests.”

“You can’t do that with 300 engineers on a laptop,” Clark continued. “You have to put it in the cloud. There’s too much data and you need to have access to it. And not only do you need access here, but we have partners in other parts of the world who need access.”

At the end of the day, Clark said, building a battery-powered airplane is a collaboration.

For more information on the mechanics behind Beta Technologies’ electric motors and the steps the company takes to iterate and improve them, see the following section. An episode of the Now Go Build seriesAWS series where Amazon CTO Dr. Werner Vogels travels the world and talks to companies that are using cloud computing to change the future.

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