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 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. This 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 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.
On December 16, 2021, Archer's Maker technology demonstrator achieved a short hover flight for the first time, marking the start of its flight test campaign. 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 late 2024. 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 by the end of 2022, which would give it less than 24 months to complete type certification to meet the planned commercial service launch by the end of 2024.
As of early April 2022, Archer's engineering team had not conducted any further flight tests with the Maker. However, they have been using 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.
Also in April, Archer announced that composite materials specialist Hexcel will be a production partner for the program. It will provide high-performance carbon fiber materials and resins needed to fabricate composite airframe structures for the eVTOL aircraft.
In late April 2022, 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 May 2022, Archer announced that it was set to resume flight testing of its eVTOL design and will progressively increase tests until it is ready to make a full transition between vertical and horizontal flight. Archer aims to have achieved this transition before the end of 2022.