Archer Aviation Inc., a Silicon Valley startup with electric vertical takeoff and landing aspirations, is now cleared to join a short (though growing) list of firms with eVTOL prototypes in active flight testing toward certification for commercial service.
The company based in Palo Alto, California, announced December 2 that its Maker aircraft, a bullet-shaped fuselage suspended beneath 12 rotors mounted on a wing, is now cleared to commence hover testing. The FAA issued a special airworthiness certificate following an inspection at the company's flight test facility.
Investors have in recent years pumped billions of dollars into development of electric aircraft, including fixed-wing and eVTOL designs, and the FAA has worked with industry to create company-specific pathways to certification for systems and technologies not anticipated by current regulations. The FAA previously issued just such a certification basis to Archer in September, the company noted in the news release. The company hopes to make its first commercial eVTOL flights in 2024, an ambitious timeline that is similar to the stated intentions of various competitors, including Joby Aviation which announced in July a successful endurance test of Joby's somewhat similar design.
Joby and German rival Lilium emerged this year as front-runners in the eVTOL race, though competitors including Volocopter also hope to be the first to certify an eVTOL aircraft. China's EHang has also been accelerating toward entry into service, possibly within a matter of months (in China), according to recent reports.