Duke Field breaks ground on first electric aircraft charging station

  • Published
  • By Matthew Clouse
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

DUKE FIELD, Florida (AFRL) – AFWERX and one of its Prime division partners, BETA Technologies, an electric aerospace company, broke ground on the first electric aircraft charging station on a military installation at Duke Field, Florida, Sept. 19, 2023. 

The expected completion date for the Level 3 direct current electric vehicle fast charging station construction project is Oct. 13, 2023, weeks before BETA’s electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft arrives for testing.

“Level 1 is a typical home power outlet and would take days to charge an eVTOL. Level 2 is a dryer or air conditioning outlet and would take hours. Level 3 is a supercharger and only takes minutes,” said Maj. Riley Livermore, 413th Flight Test Squadron flight commander. “And that's what these companies need, because if you want to make it viable from a commercial or military perspective, I can't wait 24 hours to charge my airplane. They need to do it in less than an hour.”

To achieve the speeds necessary for fast charging, Level 3 chargers require an extremely high-powered current. To provide enough power to the 480-volt, 400-amp charging station, Livermore said the base had to upgrade its power grid and bought a 1000-kilowatt volt-amp transformer that can increase or decrease the voltage and intensity of an electric current while keeping electricity flow consistent.

“You can power roughly 250 homes simultaneously with the amount of power one charger is using,” Livermore added.  Located 10 miles north of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Duke Field was strategically selected as the test field for electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft. The field is home to the Air Force’s rotary wing test squadron, the 413th Flight Test Squadron. 

“The 413th has a breadth of experience testing a variety of rotor wing aircraft and we’re looking to those experts to assist with the testing of eVTOL aircraft,” said Maj. Anthony Zartman, AFWERX Agility Prime program lead. “We've grown to the point now with our partners that we’re ready to put hardware at multiple bases and take a close look at possible use cases. It’s an exciting time for our program.”

AFWERX is partnering with the eVTOL commercial industry to bring zero-emission aviation to the military along with other benefits, including a quiet noise profile and the cost savings to operate and maintain its fleet without dependency on traditional fossil fuels.

“Our mission is to continue to be at the leading edge of emerging technologies in the aerospace industry,” Zartman added. “AFWERX has integrated with each of these eVTOL companies as early as possible, so we can potentially influence those designs and also be up to speed on the pros and cons of current technology. Then we’ll decide whether or not to continue to pursue those technologies, or perhaps pursue them in different ways. When the technology is advanced to a level where it provides a capability for the warfighter, we'll be ready to pull the trigger and execute.”

About AFRL
The Air Force Research Laboratory is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development, and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 11,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.

The innovation arm of the DAF and a directorate within the Air Force Research Laboratory brings cutting edge American ingenuity from small businesses and start-ups to address the most pressing challenges of the DAF. Employs approximately 325 military, civilian and contractor personnel at six hubs and sites executing an annual $1.4B budget. Since 2019, has executed 4,671 contracts worth more than $2B to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base and drive faster technology transition to operational capability. For more information, visit: www.afwerx.com.