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Archer Solidifies Position in eVTOL Sector
  • 28 Aug 2023 02:07 PM
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Archer Solidifies Position in eVTOL Sector

By Robert W. Moorman
Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2023

Archer is likely to be among the finalists in the race to provide electric-powered aircraft for civil and military sectors.

With several recent forward-looking announcements, Archer has cemented its position as a leading developer of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Major New Investments

On Aug. 10, the Santa Clara, California-based company announced that it secured $215M equity investment from strategic partner Stellantis, as well as Boeing, United Airlines and ARK Investment Management, LLC, bringing total funding to date to over $1.1B. This latest investment includes an acceleration of $70M from automotive giant Stellantis, with $55M remaining under that facility. From United, Archer received a $10M pre-delivery payment for 100 eVTOL aircraft. Boeing also has increased its investment in Archer, but no specific details were disclosed.

Industry observers have seen Archer as a first-tier developer of eVTOL aircraft for the past few years, and these latest announcements solidify its position as a world leader.

“The pace at which our industry is advancing is unprecedented,” said Archer Founder and CEO Adam Goldstein. “Our team’s hard work and dedication have brought us to this exciting moment.”

“They are undoubtedly one of the leaders in the US and the world,” said Sergio Cecutta, founder and CEO of SMG Consulting, a firm specializing in market analyses for the aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. “The biggest risk we see is their extremely compressed schedule, especially the very short time dedicated to fly the full-size prototype before building their conforming aircraft.”

Archer announced that its Midnight aircraft received its Special Airworthiness Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which allows the first prototype aircraft to begin flight test operations in the near future, an important step toward projected 2025 certification (see “Coming to Terms: Airworthiness Certification,” pg. 6).

As part of its agreements with the US Department of Defense, Archer will likely deliver the Midnight aircraft to the US Air Force in late 2023 or early next year, according to the company. On July 31, the US Air Force awarded Archer multiple contracts that could total $142M if all options are executed. The contract includes delivery of up to six Midnight aircraft to the Air Force, plus the sharing of flight data, certification-related test reports, pilot training, and maintenance and repair support information. The contract expands an existing relationship with the US Air Force’s AFWERX Agility Prime program.

The US Marines Corps has also shown interest in acquiring the Midnight as a quiet, lower-cost alternative to conventional-powered helicopters.

Archer will leverage Boeing’s autonomy — currently being developed for Wisk — for its future air taxi operations.

Adding Autonomy

Archer also announced it would settle federal and state court litigation with Boeing’s eVTOL subsidiary, Wisk Aero, and to collaborate on autonomous flight. The surprise agreement allows Archer to source autonomy technology from an industry leader. In June, Boeing purchased Kitty Hawk’s remaining shares in Wisk to become sole owner of the company.

“This strategic relationship will leverage each company’s respective strengths and competencies with the goal of accelerating the commercialization of autonomous flight,” stated Archer. Wisk has made the development of autonomy central to the operation of its eVTOL aircraft and a core pillar of its go-to-market strategy (see “Wisk 6th Gen Breaks Cover,” Vertiflite, Nov/Dec 2022).

In the lawsuit filed in April 2021, Wisk accused Archer of stealing its intellectual property (IP) to develop the new eVTOL aircraft, specifically the design that combined tilt-propellers and fixed lift-propellers (see “Electric VTOL News,” Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2021). Wisk also accused its former engineers of stealing its technology. Archer countersued Wisk in state court the following August, seeking $1B in damages for what it called Wisk’s “extrajudicial smear campaign.”

Federal authorities investigated the former Wisk employee at the center of the dispute, before declining in February 2022 to pursue charges against the individual. The two companies attempted to settle their differences in mediation, first in October 2022 and again in March of this year, seemingly without success. In June, a US federal judge sent the Wisk case to trial.

The appointment of Dr. Brian Yutko as Wisk CEO in January and the company’s full acquisition by Boeing in June likely encouraged the two companies to settle.

“We are pleased to have reached a mutually agreeable settlement with Archer that resolves our concerns while also eliminating the need for a costly and distracting trial,” said a Wisk spokesperson in a statement. “Wisk is committed to working collaboratively within the industry and leading in autonomous passenger flight.”

The uncrewed Maker (rear) is a two-seat demonstrator for the five-seat Midnight.


Steven Montes, an aerospace analyst with Forecast International, believes Archer’s strength is its aggressive acquisition of talent. “That is Archer’s major strength, the power of the staff,” said Montes. “Archer went out of its way to find experienced people to fill critical roles.” Inking numerous partnerships is another sign of Archer’s strength, he added.

To bolster its management team, Archer hired former FAA Administrator Billy Nolen as Chief Safety Officer and Nikhil Goel — co-founder of Uber Elevate — as the Chief Commercial Officer, responsible for leading Archer’s commercialization strategy on bringing eVTOL service to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco and creating partnerships in key international markets, including the Middle East, Asia and Latin America. In addition to displaying the Midnight mockup at the Paris Air Show (see “AAM Showcase at Paris Air Show,” Vertiflite, Sept/Oct 2023), CEO Goldstein told Bloomberg.com that potential countries of interest included India, the UAE, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Korea and Australia. Company officials were apparently visiting Australia during the Women’s World Cup in August.

Major airlines are committing to electric-powered aircraft. Archer announced plans in November with United Airlines to establish a shuttle between Manhattan and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in New Jersey with Midnight. In March, the companies announced an air taxi service between O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Vertiport Chicago. The goal is to provide residents and travelers with an alternative to ground transportation beginning in 2025. In time, Archer’s eVTOL service will branch out to other Chicago-area vertiports. Archer’s goal is to replace hour-plus commutes by car or bus with estimated 20-minute electric air taxi flights.

Unveiled in November 2022, Midnight seats a pilot and four passengers, with a projected cruise speed of 150 mph (240 km/h), a range of up to 100 miles (160 km) on a single charge and a 1,000-lb (450-kg) payload capacity. The aircraft features 12 electric propellers: six tilt-propellers — each with five blades for forward and VTOL flight — and six two-bladed propellers for VTOL flight only. The Midnight production aircraft has a high main wing, V-tail and tricycle fixed-wheeled landing gear. Cruise altitude is around 2,000 ft (600 m).

Archer’s uncrewed two-seat Maker demonstrator first flew in December 2021 in Salinas, California, and successfully completed its first transition to full wing-borne flight in November last year.

Now, Archer is planning final assembly of its “conforming Midnight aircraft” in the fourth quarter of 2023, with piloted flight test operations beginning in early 2024.

Ongoing funding by strategic partners, beefing up staff and making a sound business case for eVTOL service seems to be the script Archer is following as it moves toward a 2025 certification of Midnight.

Summed Montes: “It all comes back to talent. With that experience, they have made partnership after partnership and inked a number or orders, and are on track to be a leader in the space during the initial launch.”

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