The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Archer is a California-based startup that on May 21, 2020, announced plans to develop an all-electric, four-seat, fixed-wing eVTOL aircraft to fly up to around 60 miles at up to 150 mph. The company has yet to complete the detailed design phase of this program and nor has it published a timeline for entry into service.

As of May 2020, Archer was continuing flight tests with a number of subscale models. At the same time, it had begun to build an 80 percent scale demonstrator aircraft that it says will start flying during 2021 as part of the process for completing the design phase of the program.

Evidently, Archer's backers have a long-term vision for the eVTOL/Urban Air Mobility sector that could span 10 to 20 years. It appears not to be focused on trying to catch up with market entrants claiming to be on track to achieve service entry as early as 2024. The company intends to seek type certification under EASA's Special Conditions rules, which will limit its maximum takeoff weight to 7,000 pounds.

Since it's founding in January 2020, Archer has recruited a team of 40 engineers, including some proven leaders from rival programs such as Joby Aviation and Airbus Vahana.

In early September, Piper Aircraft launched legal action in Delaware accusing Archer Aviation of infringing its trademark on the name Archer, which it has used for a light aircraft model it first introduced 1976. 

In January 2021, U.S. carmaker Fiat Chrysler announced a partnership to support Archer with composite materials and engineering expertise. It did not say whether it is investing directly in the program or simply participating on a risk-sharing basis. Also unclear, is whether or how Fiat Chrysler may be involved in manufacturing Archer's eVTOL aircraft, which is called Maker.

In February 2021, in an effort to aim more capital, Archer announced a $1.1 billion share flotation with the SPAC Atlas Crest Investment Corp, in addition to a provisional order of up to 200 aircraft from United Airlines. The company also joined Los Angeles' Urban Air Mobility Partnership, formed in December of last year by mayor Eric Garcetti, to prepare for its upcoming commercial debut as early as 2024.

In mid-2021, a legal dispute arose between Archer Aviation and eVTOL competitor Wisk Aero after Wisk set forth allegations that its rival stole trade secrets from former Wisk employees, largely based on the aircraft's rapid development timeline. Archer refuted this claim by stating there was no tangible evidence to suggest such a case, and that Archer never received such protected intellectual property. The legal battle continues in the federal court for the Northern District of California.

Timeline

Projected

type certification granted

Type certification and service entry
Projected
Design definition complete

Outlook

Our objective assessment of this program’s probable success.

FutureFlight assesses the probability of success for a new aircraft program by considering the following criteria:

  • Total investment funds available in proportion to the anticipated cost of getting an aircraft certified and in service
  • A company’s in-house capability (in terms of numbers of engineers, technical staff, and customer support teams)
  • The past experience of the company and its senior leadership in developing aircraft
  • The caliber and past experience of key program partners
  • Whether key aircraft systems have been selected and are available for use
  • Whether the preliminary design review has been completed
  • Whether the design for the full-scale prototype has been completed
  • Whether the type certification process has been formally initiated with an appropriate regulator
  • Whether the company has achieved a first flight with a full-scale prototype
  • The number of hours logged in a flight test program
  • Whether type certification has been achieved
  • The number of orders and commitment received for the aircraft
  • Whether the company has adequate facilities to begin series production of the aircraft
Our Methodology

Archer appears to have significant financial backing, mainly from Walmart eCommerce CEO Marc Lore, investing in a personal capacity. Co-founders Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock have an entrepreneurial record, having sold their recruitment site Vettery to the Adecco Group for $100 million. They have quickly assembled a credible team and appear to have a solid plan to get a prototype to flight test and beyond.

The involvement of Fiat Chrysler as a partner may give the program a stronger engineering foundation, but the carmaker's role was not fully explained when the alliance was announced in January 2021.

The company significantly bolstered its prospects for getting an aircaft to market with the announcement of a $1.1 billion SPAC flotation in February 2021. These prospects were gilded by a provisional commitment from United Airlines to acquire up to 200 of its eVTOL. Nonetheless, Archer has yet to show material proof of its concept or evidence that it has the engineering resources to execute a comlex program.

Archer eVTOL Models

Archer eVTOL Specifications

local vtol Lift + Cruise

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    4
  • Range
    60 mi
  • Cruise Speed
    150 mph
  • Powerplant Type
    propeller
  • Power Source
    electric
  • Endurance
    n/a
  • Max Altitude
    n/a
  • Takeoff Distance
    n/a
  • Landing Distance
    n/a
  • Empty Weight
    n/a
  • MGTOW
    7,000 lb
  • Payload Weight
    n/a

Dimensions

  • Length
    n/a
  • Width
    n/a
  • Height
    n/a
  • Wingspan
    n/a

Launching its eVTOL progam in May 2020, Archer said that it has yet to define the final architecture and performance for its planned all-electric aircraft. The design definition phase is expected to run through the end of 2021. A preliminary concept drawing for the unnamed aircraft shows a fixed wing design with six propellers, and a V-shaped tail.

The company says the aircraft will carry four passengers for 60 miles at speeds of up to 150 mph. 

Key Personnel

Tom Muniz
Tom Muniz

Chief operating officer