Clarkson University Astronautics seniors explore Beta Technology


Beta students

On November 14, 2022, Clarkson University’s aerospace engineering design seniors toured the aerospace company Beta Technologies (https://www.beta.team). Beta has a test flight facility located two hours from Clarkson at New York’s Plattsburgh Airport. This tour was then followed by a second tour to Beta’s main engineering and manufacturing facility at the Burlington, VT airport. The students were accompanied by mechanical and aerospace engineering professors Brian Helenbrook and Ken Visser.

Beta is developing electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for cargo and passenger services. Students were first given a presentation on the company’s history, followed by a question-and-answer session with Beta engineers.

In the hangar, the students were shown an early technology prototype developed by Beta called Ava. Ava worked as a technology demonstrator to build the company from the ground up. Beta explains that their original concept focused on a tilt-rotor propulsion system. Then they went through the design process and decided how to separate lift-off and forward flight modes, such as electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft modes, from conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) configurations, and the concept was born. Alia.

Alia is a 6-passenger eVTOL aircraft that can only operate as a CTOL aircraft. Beta has built two prototypes of the vehicle, one for each mode, and is actively flying them toward certification. Students were allowed to inspect the aircraft, climb inside and sit in the pilot’s seat.

Alia is propelled forward by conventional thrusters. It receives vertical lift from 4 lifting struts located on the top support. After vertical takeoff, the rear propeller is engaged and the lift struts are positioned to point forward after normal flight is advanced enough.

The students were then taken to the main engineering plant and hangar at the Burlington Airport in Vermont. Here they were shown the production facilities and where the company’s engineers work. Both Alia aircraft were built there. In addition to the overall design of the aircraft, with the focus on motors and controls, Beta determined that they needed to develop and manufacture their own motor and control systems. The tour then took everyone outside to Beta’s aviation charging station concept, which Beta plans to use as infrastructure for all electric aircraft across the United States, not just for their own aircraft. They have already built additional stations and are planning to build more. (https://www.beta.team/charge/)

The Clarkson Colter School of Engineering would like to thank Ken ’71 and Grace Solinski for their support! The trip supported Clarkson engineering students visiting manufacturing and industrial plants, one of the goals of Solinsky’s Engineering Leadership Challenge program. These visits help students make connections between coursework and real-world engineering and inspire them about careers in advanced manufacturing.



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