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, but it aims to have the initial production version of its eVTOL, called Midnight, enter service in 2025.

Archer has conducted flight tests with a number of subscale models, most notably its two-seat Maker technology demonstrator, which completed its first test flight in December 2021. The Maker is being used to help the company complete the development of the four-passenger vehicle with which it intends to launch commercial services by 2025. Work on the full-scale eVTOL is still in its preliminary design stage. The company said it aims to roll out the large, production aircraft in 2023.

Maker didn't conduct any test flights for six months after its initial hover test, but test flights resumed in June 2022. While Maker was temporarily grounded, Archer brought the aircraft to a wind tunnel to test full-scale electric motor and propeller combinations for both the forward tilting propellers and the aft lifter propellers. In addition to evaluating these elements individually, the units were mounted on full-scale boom, which was then attached to a wing section for testing in the wind tunnel, generating computational fluid dynamics data to support work to complete the design of the full-scale aircraft.

In August 2022, the company said it completed two of the three phases of Maker’s flight testing program. The first phase involved a series of hover flights. The second involved what the company calls “critical azimuth” testing, in which Maker flew in various directions and attitudes to test its configuration and flight control systems in various simulated wind conditions. The third phase will involve the first full transition flights, in which the aircraft will transition from hover mode to full wing-borne cruise flight. Archer said it expects to complete the first full transition flight in the second half of 2022. 

Evidently, Archer's backers have a long-term vision for the eVTOL/urban air mobility sector that could span 10 to 20 years. 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 its 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 September 2020, 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. Archer is also facing a lawsuit with eVTOL competitor Wisk Aero. In mid-2021, a legal dispute arose between Archer Aviation and Wisk, 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.

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.

In February 2021, in an effort to aim more capital, Archer announced a merger with the SPAC Atlas Crest Investment Corp. and plans for a New York Stock Exchange flotation, in addition to a provisional order of up to 200 aircraft from United Airlines. The SPAC deal closed in September 2021 with the combined company raising just under $850 million. Archer also joined Los Angeles' Urban Air Mobility Partnership, formed in December 2020 by mayor Eric Garcetti, to prepare for its upcoming commercial debut.

In April 2022, Archer announced that composite materials specialist Hexcel will be a production partner for the company's eVTOL program. Hexcel will provide high-performance carbon fiber materials and resins needed to fabricate composite airframe structures for the eVTOL aircraft. Also in April, United Airlines, an investor and customer of Archer Aviation, joined Archer to form an eVTOL aircraft advisory committee. The committee will advise Archer on maintenance and operational arrangements for its eVTOL design. The committee includes 10 executives from both companies and is chaired by the managing director of United Express TechOps strategy and operations Mauricio Angel and Archer vice president of engineering Dave Dennison.

Following Archer co-founder and co-CEO Brett Adcock's decision to leave his position as co-CEO in April 2022, Adcock announced in May that he had resigned from the Archer board. In a deleted tweet, Adcock indicated that he did not support the director's vision for the company.

In July 2022, Archer announced that Austrian manufacturer FACC will contribute lightweight wing and fuselage elements for the eVTOL. Later in July, Archer found the manufacturer of the flight control actuation and thermal management systems for its eVTOL in Honeywell Aerospace.

United Airlines is the first customer to place a down payment for Archer's eVTOL aircraft. On August 10, 2022, Archer reported that it had received a $10 million down payment from United for the first 100 of 200 production eVTOLs United had provisionally agreed to buy in February 2021. Archer said the deal represents one of the first of its kind for the budding eVTOL industry. 

Archer announced in August 2022 that it had completed the preliminary design review for the initial production aircraft called Midnight. The company also updated some of the specifications for its planned aircraft. Midnight is expected to have a range of up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) on a single charge, and Archer says it expects the fully electric aircraft to conduct successive 20-mile flights with only 10 minutes of charging time in between. It will seat four passengers plus a pilot and can carry payloads up to 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms). 

When it completed the preliminary design review, Archer reported that the FAA had already approved many of its means of compliance for the Midnight eVTOL and that it expects to come to an agreement over the remainder of the means of compliance by the end of 2022. The FAA approved Archer’s certification basis in September 2021, and the company aims to achieve type certification for Midnight in 2024 followed by an entry into service by 2025.

Timeline

Projected

type certification granted

Type certification and service entry

Archer completed the preliminary design review for its initial production aircraft, Midnight. 

test flight

First test flight of Archer's Maker technology demonstrator

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 made progress on flight testing with the two-seat Maker eVTOL technology demonstrator.

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 aircraft to market with the announcement of a $1.1 billion SPAC flotation in February 2021. These prospects were gilded by a firm commitment from United Airlines to acquire up to 200 of its eVTOL, with United placing its first down payment of $10 million for an initial 100 units in August 2022. Nonetheless, Archer has yet to show material proof of its concept or evidence that it has the engineering resources to execute a complex program.

Midnight Models

Archer eVTOL Specifications

local vtol Lift + Cruise

Performance

  • Passenger Capacity
    4
  • Range
    100 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
    1,000 lb

Dimensions

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

Launching its eVTOL program in May 2020, Archer said that it has yet to define the final architecture and performance for its planned all-electric aircraft. Archer completed the preliminary design review for its initial production eVTOL aircraft, called Midnight, in August 2022 and plans to reveal the new design in 2023. A preliminary concept drawing for the aircraft shows a fixed wing design with six propellers, and a V-shaped tail.

Key Personnel

Tom Muniz
Tom Muniz

Chief operating officer

Eric Wright
Eric Wright

General Manager

Alan Tepe
Alan Tepe

Jeremy Mayer
Jeremy Mayer

Mark Moore is CEO of Whisper Aero and a member of Archer Aviation's technical advisory board.
Mark Moore

Tom Anderson is chief operating officer for urban air mobility with Archer.
Tom Anderson

Chief operating officer

Mike Romanowski is head of government relations with Archer Aviation.
Mike Romanowski

Geoff Bower is chief engineer of Archer.
Geoff Bower

Chief engineer