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Archer Aviation unveils 2-seater demonstration aircraft, a “springboard” to commercial operations – TechCrunch


Archer Aviation on Thursday unveiled its autonomous electric two-seater aircraft dubbed “Maker”, which it will use for tests as it works on the certification of a larger piloted five-seater announced in March 2020.

The plane unveiled Thursday is not what would fly if the company reaches commercial operation in 2024. However, Archer’s certification manager Eric Wright told TechCrunch that starting with an autonomous vehicle allows the business to move more efficiently through the testing process.

“The [two-seater] The Maker plane is a stepping stone on the road to certification, ”explained Wright. He said it was a “test bed that really helps us increase our knowledge and awareness of, for example, flight control systems and electric propulsion and the things we put in. the certified aircraft, [Federal Aviation Administration] gain confidence in this design as we test it, and of course they will be involved in overseeing this development.

The manufacturer and the unnamed five-seat aircraft have similarities in their specifications: Both have a “tilt rotor” design, which means that of the aircraft’s 12 total rotors, all six front rotors can be seated. ’tilt. 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 batteries each for safety reasons, as the rest of the batteries should work even if they fail. It is these batteries that give boats a range of 60 miles to 150 miles per hour. While the two-seat design has a 40-foot wingspan and weighs around 3,300 pounds, the larger plane will likely weigh more, Wright said.

Image credits: Archer (Opens in a new window)

The Palo Alto-based company also said it expects Maker to generate just 45 decibels of sound from 2,000 feet. The noise specification is especially important for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) companies that have air taxi aspirations. Mass adoption is unlikely to be acceptable – both by the public and by regulators – if the plane is sufficiently quiet.

Archer had been slowly spreading information about Maker over the past few months, including releasing a high-quality render of the two-seater after the company announced it had landed a billion-dollar order with United. (The release of these renderings helped spark legal action from rival eVTOL developer Wisk Aero alleging trade secret misappropriation.) Thursday’s event marks the first time the public has seen an actual aircraft. of the startup valued at $ 3.8 billion.

When asked why the first aircraft was autonomous, Wright said it would help the company move more efficiently through the testing and validation process. “By making the vehicle self-sufficient, you can get things done faster without the pilot of the plane actually having to fly it,” Wright said. “So you can look at the aircraft’s response to inputs, from a stand-alone point of view, much faster, much more efficient.”

While autonomous air taxis may have been carrying people through cities for years, Archer, like other eVTOL developers, considers self-reliance in his long-term plan – as aircraft operational, rather than simply facilitating a broader certification process.

“If we’re going to have a really big impact on transportation, I think it’s really hard to think of doing it on a very long-term pilot basis,” Archer CEO Brett Adcock told TechCrunch in a brief. separate interview. “I think piloting is for sure the right way to enter the market in terms of entering airspace and getting certification and for that to happen, basically, right away. . And then I think that over time, in order to strengthen the safety of passengers and the network, it is really going to be important to move to autonomous airspace. So I think [autonomy] is inevitable as the industry is moving really well and gaining momentum. “

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

Adcock also said the company has had conversations with ridesharing companies about working together to integrate the first and last mile car trips that will inevitably be required with air taxi routes.

Ahead of the proposed launch date of 2024, Goldstein said the company was working with its partner, automaker Stellantis, on two facilities: one that would provide traditional aerospace volumes in the hundreds of planes per year, and a future facility that would build an even higher volume.

Archer has manufacturing needs similar to those of an automaker, Goldstein said, “where we use lightweight carbon fiber for a lot of parts, we have electric motors, batteries, whatever automobiles do. ”



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