July 7, 2022

The Battery That Flys - The New York Times

The Battery That Flys – The New York Times

Then he found himself considering a career on Wall Street, doing something he didn’t want to do far from where he wanted to be: moving back to Vermont.

“There is a brain drain” among the engineers of his state, he said. “People go to college and come back when they’re 40, because they realize San Francisco or Boston isn’t a cat’s meow.” Returning to Burlington in his mid-twenties, Mr. Clark became director of engineering at a company that designed power transformers for Tesla.

In 2017, he attended a conference where Ms. Rothblatt demonstrated her demo of an electronic helicopter.

“There were about 30 people in the room, and none of them were excited about me,” Ms. Rothblatt recalls. Then Kyle stood up and said, ‘I’m a person who specializes in electronics and power systems, and I’m confident we can achieve your specifications with a test flight in one to two years. The other people were shaking their heads. He was probably the youngest person in the room. So I came up to him during the break and said, ‘Where is your company located?’ And he said, ‘I live in Vermont.’

A few weeks later, after a second meeting, Mr. Clark drew a watercolor for his design and sent it to Mrs. Rothblatt. Within hours, $1.5 million of Beta Technologies’ seed capital was transferred to his bank account.

“He drew a beautiful design,” said Mrs. Rothblatt.

A prototype with four tilting propellers was assembled in eight months, with Mr. Clarke driving the car himself. Built in Burlington, the plane had to be flown over Lake Champlain, far from population centers.

“Flying has been so much fun that we found an excuse for every possible opportunity,” Mr. Clark told an audience at MIT in 2019. In the end, the design turned out to be too complex and Mr. Clark threw it out. He created a simplified prototype modeled on the arctic tern, a small, slow bird capable of flying superhuman distances without landing.

Since then, Beta’s workforce has grown to more than 350 from 30. The company’s headquarters has expanded to include several buildings wrapping around the runway at Burlington International Airport, with plans to build an additional 40-acre campus.