Miami Tech & Startup News

Archer’s air taxi mission gets off the ground – quite literally

Archer’s air taxi mission gets off the ground – quite literally

It’s been a whirlwind year for the company that plans to bring urban air mobility to Miami and LA first

Archer Aviation says it is on track to bring on-demand all electric air taxi service to Miami in 2024. In fact, you can see the company’s progress for yourself.

Archer said this week that Maker, its eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) demonstrator  aircraft, successfully completed its first hover flight after already achieving FAA airworthiness certification. The flight marks the completion of the company’s first systems test and validation that every hardware and software component works as intended to move the aircraft into the air.  Now Archer can move forward with extensive flight testing into 2022 and beyond. 

“It’s been humbling to build a leading eVTOL company and educate the public on clean transportation alternatives. Today is a milestone for both Archer and the future of travel. I’m extremely proud of this exceptional team,” said Brett Adcock, who is an Archer co-founder and co-CEO along with Adam Goldstein. The California-based Archer has Florida roots:  its co-founders are graduates of University of Florida and the company is named after Archer Road in Gainesville, the area where the startup was first incubated. 

Archer’s mission is to reduce carbon emissions by whisking passengers up and over the traffic to their destinations in all-electric aircraft in urban areas, and it plans to launch its service first in Miami and Los Angeles. It’s aircraft – which eventually will likely seat 4 passengers and a pilot – quietly lift and land vertically, making it ideal for urban areas, and produce zero emissions due to the electric propulsion system. The Maker aircraft is designed to fly about 60 miles on one charge at speeds reaching roughly 150 miles per hour so the time savings can be significant too.

 “Everything we’ve accomplished this year, every milestone hit and partnership struck, was all with one goal in mind: developing both an aircraft and a UAM ecosystem that could scale and change the face of intra-city travel,” said Goldstein, in a statement. “Our team stands ready to continue that pace as we work toward launching an aerial ride-sharing service in late 2024.” 

Indeed, it’s been a whirlwind year for the venture-funded Archer that announced in March Miami would be a launch city. The startup went public in September after merging with Atlas Crest Investment Corp., a SPAC. “That provides us with the capital necessary to develop our aircraft, to build our manufacturing facility, and really stand up that aerial ride-sharing business,” said Andrew Cummins, Archer’s Director of Business Development, in an interview with Refresh Miami last month.

Archer has also been busy making strategic partnerships to drive the business forward, Cummins said. One of its earliest partners was United Airlines, which put in an order for $1 billion worth of aircraft with an option for an additional $500 million, and is also an investor. But this year Archer also partnered with Stellantis, the fourth largest auto manufacturer by volume, giving the company access to manufacturing capabilities and supply chain. “We will need to manufacture these aircrafts at a rate that looks more like a traditional auto manufacturing rate than your traditional aerospace manufacturing rate. So that’s really valuable for us,” Cummins said.

At the same time, because Archer will be both a manufacturer and an urban air mobility service, the company is beginning to plan and build the ecosystem. That includes takeoff and landing infrastructure, MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) sites, charging infrastructure, pilot training, and other capabilities that will be necessary to build an entire industry around these aircraft, Cummins said.

As Refresh Miami reported in August, Archer has partnered with Miami-based REEF, which owns or operates some 4,800 parking facilities.  Archer and REEF will work together to allow Archer’s aircraft to access rooftop sites across some of the most densely populated and heavily congested urban city locations, including  Miami and Los Angeles.

“We want to ensure that we’re locating vertiports in the most convenient, accessible locations for future riders. And to do that, we’re using data to determine optimal vertiport spots,” Cummins said. Its technology looks at movements involving commutes and other car trips, mass transit, city congestion,critical infrastructure andother community considerations. “We want to bring a  service that is going to improve and enhance the life of the citizens of that community and also be complementary and enhance the existing transportation.”

Cummins said Archer’s sweet spot will be urban hops of 10 miles to 40 or 50 miles, where passengers can save the most precious time. Think MIA to South Beach or Brickell to downtown Fort Lauderdale. That 12-mile MIA to South Beach route could easily take 40 minutes or more by car (all bets are off during Art Week) but would take about 10 minutes by air taxi.

Cummins confirmed earlier reports that the cost of a ride would be comparable to an Uber. It may start out closer to Uber Black, the premium service, but costs will likely come down as more people use the service. It won’t be only for the rich, he says. “We truly mean a service that can provide transportation for all.”

Miami’s urban density, its well-known car-clogged streets and highways, and its hospitable weather make it an attractive first market, along with Los Angeles, for Archer. To be sure, Archer isn’t the only company that sees way too many residents and visitors stuck in traffic. Competitors circling Miami so far include Joby and Lilium.

 “We are not just developing an aircraft. We are truly developing an entire product portfolio and ecosystem to create an incredible customer journey,” said Cummins, referring to the experience from booking your travel until you get to your final destination, not just the flight segment. “We are creating partnerships, for example, with other mobility providers to provide that first and last mile if it’s necessary, to and from vertiports. We are creating a forward facing booking app that will be your entry into the Archer world where we will help you plan that seamless end to end customer journey.”

“And then the flight itself will be spectacular. Flying in one of these aircraft at roughly 2,000 feet above sea level will provide amazing new perspectives on the communities in which we live and/or visit. So I think that’s what we’re really excited about.”

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter and email her at ndahlbergbiz@gmail.com

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