Archer Aviation reveals 2-seater demonstration aircraft, a “stepping stone” toward commercial operations

Archer Aviation on Thursday unveiled its autonomous electric two-seater aircraft called “Maker” which it will use for testing as it works towards certification of a large piloted five-seater announced in March 2020.

The plane unveiled Thursday is not one that the company should reach commercial operation in 2024. However, Archer’s head of certification Eric Wright told Nerdshala that starting with an autonomous vehicle allows the company to proceed with the testing process more efficiently.

“The [two-seater] Manufacturers are a step in the path of aircraft certification,” explained Wright. He added that this one was “a test bed that really helps, say, our knowledge and awareness, the flight control systems and the electric propulsion and the things that we’re putting in certified aircraft, and to help [Federal Aviation Administration] Gain confidence in that design as we put it through its paces, and of course, they’ll be there to see that grow. “

Both the Maker and the unnamed five-seater aircraft are similar in their specifications: both have a “tilt-rotor” design, meaning that of the total 12 rotors on the aircraft, the front six can be tilted to the position. This tilt mechanism is what allows the aircraft to climb vertically like a helicopter and move forward like an airplane.

Both also have six independent battery packs for safety purposes, as the rest of the battery should work even if one fails. It is these batteries that give the craft a range of 60 miles at 150 mph. While the two-seat design has a 40-foot wingspan and clocks in at about 3,300 pounds, the larger the aircraft will weigh more, Wright said.

The Palo Alto-based company also said it estimated the maker would produce only 45 decibels of sound from 2,000 feet. Noise specification is especially important for electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) companies that have air taxi aspirations. Mass adoption will likely only be acceptable – by both the public and regulators – if the aircraft is sufficiently quiet.

Archer has been slowly dodging information about the maker over the past few months, including releasing a high-quality rendering of the two-seater after the company announced a $1 billion order with United. (The release of those renders helped lead to a lawsuit from rival EVTOL developer Visc Aero alleging trade secret misappropriation.) Thursday’s incident marks the first time the public has been able to see an actual plane from the startup that is valued at $3.8 billion.

Asked why the first aircraft is autonomous, Wright said it would help the company move through the testing and validation process more efficiently. “By making the vehicle autonomous you can do things faster without the pilot in the plane actually flying it,” Wright said. “So you can see the response that the aircraft has to input from an autonomous standpoint, a lot faster, a lot more efficiently.”

While it may still be years before autonomous air taxis are ferrying people to cities, Archer, like other EVTOL developers, sees autonomy in its long-term blueprint – as an operational aircraft, only to facilitate a larger certification process. instead of making.

“If we’re going to have a really big impact on transportation, I think it’s really hard to think about doing it in a pilot way,” Archer CEO Brett Adcock told Nerdshala in a separate interview. “I think pilots are definitely the right way to enter the market as it relates to getting into the airspace and getting certified and being, basically, instant. And then I think that over time, the passengers and the network To increase security for both, going into autonomous airspace is going to be really important. So I guess [autonomy] That’s inevitable to the extent that the industry really does well and gets bigger.”

The three-year-old startup aims to start commercial operations in Los Angeles and Miami in 2024. The company’s systems simulation team is using a simulation tool called Prime Radiant to determine where to place its vertiports. That team is led by the former head of data science at Uber Elevate, Uber’s air mobility arm, which was later sold to Joby Aviation in December 2020.

Adcock also said the company was in talks with ride-sharing companies about working together to integrate first- and last-mile car trips that would inevitably be needed with air taxi routes.

Ahead of the proposed 2024 launch date, Goldstein said the company is working with its partner, automaker Stellantis, on two facilities: one that will deliver conventional aerospace volumes in the hundreds of planes per year, and a future facility that will build one. Will do Even more quantity.

Archer has similar manufacturing requirements as an automaker, Goldstein said.Where we use lightweight carbon fiber for a lot of parts, we have electric motors, batteries which are like autos.

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