Archer has publicly unveiled its eVTOL aircraft in an event hosted by co-founders Adam Goldstein and Brett Adcock in Los Angeles.
The pair used the hour-long session on June 10th, which was held at Hawthorne Hanger Operations and also live streamed to a global audience, to talk more about the technical aspects of the company’s aircraft – called Maker.
When revealing the aircraft, Goldstein said Maker ‘will serve as a certification testbed to also keep pushing our key enabling technologies’. The first flights are expected to begin in Q4 2021, with manufacturing to begin in 2022 ahead of a 2024 launch.
In an industry first, Archer utilised movie production technology to bring its aircraft to life. The company built a 2,400 sq ft XR volume space that simulated a commercial flight and allowed those attending to take a virtual journey in Maker, which will be fully autonomous and fly 60 miles at speeds of 150 miles per hour.
Archer’s new Chief Creative Officer, Kenny Taht, was at the helm of the event’s creative direction, drawing on over three decades of experiential design and television production to bring Maker to life.
He said: “True innovation requires inspiration, which is why the team at Archer put great emphasis on creating a groundbreaking, highly engaging moment for Maker’s unveil. In order to progress UAM, continuous education is needed and, with this experience, we’ve helped introduce travelers to this new reality.”
Archer says it will enable trips which are 10 times faster than a car and when cruising at 2,000ft above ground, Maker will be 100 times quieter than a helicopter generating only 45 dB of sound.
In terms of the technical specifications, Maker has a 40ft wingspan and weighs about 3,300lbs (about 1,496kg). While traditional helicopter rotors have a tip speed of Mach 0.7, Maker’s are down in the less than .4 range. It has 12 rotors, with six tilting rotors in front of the wing and six fixed rotors used for the transition phase only used for hover and cruise. There are six independent battery packs.
During the event, Adcock and Goldstein talked about the people who would use this service. A trip using Archer’s eVTOL aircraft from Fort Launderdale in Florida to Miami can take just 14 minutes, as opposed to more than an hour by car. And in Los Angeles, a journey in the eVTOL aircraft from downtown to Santa Monica is even shorter – eight minutes – when compared to a 45-minute drive.
Goldstein added the company can do this route for under $40, adding: “There are millions of trips like this; people are taking them every single day. We can move those trips to the air and do it in a fully sustainable way.”
Adcock then presented a visual of trip data that is happening in Los Angeles, saying over 50 million daily trips are made every day. Of these, about five million take more than one hour, resulting in LA commuters losing 100 hours each year stuck in traffic.
Archer has internal data science project, called Prime Radiant, which uses the trip data to better understand how to build the most ideal Archer network and make the service available to everyone. For take-off and landing sites, Archer is using existing real estate with light retrofitting. This include helipads, rooftops, land parcels and parking lots.
“We use Prime Radiant to better understand where to put take-off and landing sites, what to charge for the service and ultimately how to save people time in their commute,” Adcock said.
When revealing the aircraft, Goldstein said Maker ‘will serve as a ‘certification testbed also keep pushing our key enabling technologies.’
Goldstein and Adcock also spoke to eVTOL Insights before the event, where they gave more detail about the company’s work so far in what has already been a busy year. Archer was the first eVTOL aircraft developer to go public in a joint SPAC merger with Atlas Crest Investment Corp, and has announced significant partnerships with Stellantis and United Airlines.
Q: A lot of hard work and effort has gone in from both of you and the rest of the Archer team to get to this moment. How does it feel to finally unveil your aircraft to the public for the first time?
Adam Goldstein: “It’s a really exciting time for us. As you said there’s been a lot of work that’s gone into this across all kind of the key areas we’ve focused on, from aerodynamics to avionics and structures and in hardware and flight controls. We’ve spent a lot of time getting us to where we are today and we’re really excited to show that to the masses.
“I think what’s really important is that the public sees these vehicles and starts to understand the technology is here and ready. Not only it is exciting, it’s safe, reliable and can really bring to the market a low-cost and affordable price so people will be excited to take these vehicles for a ride.”
Q: Public acceptance is a really crucial part of the ecosystem, and an event like this will enable people to get up close to these aircraft at this event. What can those attending expect?
Brett Adcock: “The goal for us was to be able to show the world what we’ve been working on the last few years. There’s very difficult areas such as vehicle design and flight controls, as well all the work we’ve done on the business model side to get the aircraft to the right size in terms of distance, speed and noise.
It is really to talk about why we’re doing this at Archer and why we think this technology will have an important impact on the world, as it relates to congestion sustainability. And then ultimately show everyone the vehicle and talk about what we did and how we engineered it; what the vehicle is capable of doing and really start to build that public trust in education with everything we’ve been up to and everything we hopefully will continue to build with the rest of general public.”
Q: This event will be great for Los Angeles, but are there plans to potentially organise similar events in other cities so more people can see Archer’s aircraft and understand the technology?
AG: “I think there certainly is the potential to do that. This event was really foundational in the sense that we want to really solidify its [Maker] place in world and help introduce the concept to the mass market, by showing it off to the investors so they can sit in the aircraft, ask questions and get involved.
I don’t think there has been an event in the whole space, with the real aircraft and the one that will fly. I think it’s pretty great from an industry perspective to do this, but then ultimately, to start finding ways to have a broader consumer base really understand that.”
Q: Do you think we’re starting to see a shift in understanding of electric aviation and that an event like this can help bring it to the front of people’s minds?
BA: “I hope so and think it’s going to be important. They see a tonne of investor interest and a lot of big partners with us like Stellantis and United [Airlines]. We’ve had a tonne of signups to the event and we’re excited to start building that public trust and narrative with the general world.
“But this technology is also in the early innings too, so it’s getting people prepared for what this can do and what we can do over here internally. People are still learning about how it’s going to work, how fast passengers can take it, where it will land and how it will travel in the airspace. All of those things are what we’re going to keep trying to address and work towards, and I think it will be good to talk about things other than the aircraft for an hour, like how it is going to operate.”
Q: Are you able to disclose what else you have been doing this year in terms of the manufacturing side of things, is that on course to be ready by 2024?
AG: “We have two big phases of manufacturing we’re going through and the first phase is what we call more of our traditional aerospace volume, where we will be building hundreds of aircraft on an annual basis. We haven’t made any public announcements about this, but we will, because we’re working with Stellantis and in process there.
And then the second base, which is really the more high scale manufacturing where you can be building 1000’s of aircraft per year. We’re also working with Stellantis on that in terms of thi on that we still wanted to in terms of thinking about these factories of the future and how to introduce more of robotic automation in a process. Historically, it’s been more labour and manual intensive.
So we have all that stuff we’re working on right now. Stellantis has been a great partner to us with a lot of expertise; they have an entire team dedicated to standing up manufacturing plants, site selection and all that kind of stuff, really helping us scout out our locations and future plans.”
Q: As well as Stellantis, how much of an impact can United Airlines have on your operations?
BA: We’re dead set on operating our aircraft ourselves and United were very interested in urban air mobility and pushing for sustainable forms of transport. And we now have a big relationship with them where they’re buying aircraft from us commercially.
“You’re looking at one of the biggest airline groups in the world that does pilot training, maintenance and overall operations, so to be able to leverage that with them is a tremendous asset for us. United was one of the first big operators to make a really big bet on this space and with Archer, so it’s really impactful for the whole industry and for consumer confidence.
“We’re getting closer to market and working with a reputable operator like United is really good from a business perspective, as well as having a big commercial agreement with them to spin up manufacturing volumes and ultimately get the cost down for end consumers.”
Q: Is it too early to disclose your estimated price point per mile for future passengers?
AG: “We’ve been targeting around $3 to $4. It’s trying to figure out how to make it affordable to the masses and our goal is, over time, to push those prices down even further and help have a real impact on sustainability. We need to make sure it is a produce that is affordable to the masses and that’s been a big part of our solution.
“In the beginning, as you can see from our production estimates it will be hundreds of aircraft, it’s not on the levels of automobiles which are producing millions. But we can get to the point where we can significantly push the price down or there’s much more to scale to that.
And even at something similar to Uber X price; if you look at a trip from JFK to Manhattan which is about 15 to 17 miles and costs $60-70. That’s roughly a $4 per passenger mile. I know different cities will have different prices, for example London to Heathrow Airport is a brutal drive as it’s not that far but just takes a really long time.
“But I think at that price point we can really start to introduce this aircraft to a large segment of the population and push that down over time to really gain mass market adoption.”
Q: As well as Los Angeles and Miami, does Archer plan to create urban air mobility network in other cities?
BA: “Yes, for sure. The goal is to be in every major city in the world and the company which will be able to do that will have a big manufacturing focus and driving down price for the consumer. We’ve chosen to certify here in the United States first and really take that process very seriously with the FAA.
“We’re making considerable headway and feel really great about our progress so far. We announced these two cities, and there will be more on the roadmap in future, but there are two of the best in the US. There are a lot of real estate for us to use, a lot of land, helipads and airports. It’s very difficult to move around those cities with a lot of traffic, but there’s a lot of interest to bring in new sustainable forms of aerial transport; they want eVTOLs and urban air mobility to work and flourish.
“There will be more cities in the US where we plan to launch, so I think it’s only a matter of time and we’ve got two good partners who we’ll be launching with to looking to expand onto.”
Q: What is Archer up to for the rest of this year and into 2022?
AG: “We’re really focused on certification and working with the FAA to certify the aircraft. vehicle. That’s a big focus right now. We’re also really scaling up the team as we get deeper into the certification process and I think in 2022 we’ll continue on that path. The goal is to have a certified plan to bring the aircraft to market as soon as possible, which is safe, affordable and low noise, so we can really scale up the industry and make it a mass market sustainable solution.”
If you missed the June 10th unveil, you can watch it again on Archer’s YouTube channel by clicking here.