Aircraft

Archer unveils full-scale, two-seat, autonomous Maker eVTOL prototype

Archer unveils full-scale, two...
Archer co-founders Brett Adcock, left and Adam Goldstein with their new Maker prototype
Archer co-founders Brett Adcock, left and Adam Goldstein with their new Maker prototype
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Archer co-founders Brett Adcock, left and Adam Goldstein with their new Maker prototype
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Archer co-founders Brett Adcock, left and Adam Goldstein with their new Maker prototype
The Archer team celebrate the Maker unveiling
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The Archer team celebrate the Maker unveiling
Propulsion pods place the props fore and aft of the winds
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Propulsion pods place the props fore and aft of the winds
The presentation was made at Hawthorne airport in California
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The presentation was made at Hawthorne airport in California
Comfy two-seat cabin
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Comfy two-seat cabin
Luggage space behind the seats
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Luggage space behind the seats
The doors go like this, baby
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The doors go like this, baby
Gullwing doors will give passengers a further sense of protection from the rotors – not that they'll be spinning as you're getting in and out
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Gullwing doors will give passengers a further sense of protection from the rotors – not that they'll be spinning as you're getting in and out
Archer is targeting 20-40 mile cross-town flights that'll put you in the air for about ten minutes and allow quick top-up charges at the vertipad
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Archer is targeting 20-40 mile cross-town flights that'll put you in the air for about ten minutes and allow quick top-up charges at the vertipad
Archer co-founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein present the Maker prototype
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Archer co-founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein present the Maker prototype
The front rotors will tilt for horizontal flight
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The front rotors will tilt for horizontal flight
The prototype is spot-on to the renders we've seen previously, and it looks amazing
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The prototype is spot-on to the renders we've seen previously, and it looks amazing
Check out that awesome LED video stage! A+ on production, guys!
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Check out that awesome LED video stage! A+ on production, guys!
Archer presented the Maker on a video-screen backdrop, making for some very neat visuals
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Archer presented the Maker on a video-screen backdrop, making for some very neat visuals
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Palo Alto's Archer has unveiled a full-scale, two-seat, autonomous prototype of its Maker eVTOL aircraft at the Hawthorne Airport in California. This striking aircraft will begin ground tests and flight tests later this year, with air taxi services slated to begin in LA and Miami in 2024.

Just about dead-on to the renders we've seen previously, the Maker uses an intermediate design that's effectively half vectored thrust and half lift & cruise. It's a fairly conventional airplane shape with a V-tail and a large main overhead wing. Along this wing are six propulsion pods, each with a two-blade rear lift rotor and a five-blade front rotor that can tilt forward in horizontal flight. The rear rotors can't be completely tucked away to reduce drag, but they keep things as efficient as they can by aligning themselves with the airflow.

Maker promises perfectly reasonable 150 mph (340 km/h) top speeds and 60-mile (96 km) battery range with emergency reserves taken into account, and at today's launch, Archer confirmed that this is very much an urban air taxi focused on affordable, cross-town traffic-busting rather than the longer-range inter-city operations Germany's Lilium is focusing on.

Check out that awesome LED video stage! A+ on production, guys!
Check out that awesome LED video stage! A+ on production, guys!

"We're designing for nominal missions between 20 and 40 miles," said co-founder Brett Adcock. "And we designed a long range battery that was capable of much more than this. So we don't have to fully charge after every trip. For our flights we'll be using around 30% of our battery pack. The battery is meant to be fast charged, while on the ground, which means it only takes about 10 minutes to charge enough before it's ready for the next flight. That means that the Archer aircraft can do over 40 flights per day."

"What Brett's talking about are these urban Air Mobility missions, right? Your commuting trips," added co-founder Adam Goldstein. "But we think there's actually a broader purpose here. What about all the trips that you wish you could take, but you just don't because they're too far? Imagine you could go anywhere within a 50 mile radius. Where would you go? What if you go rock climbing on a Thursday in a remote area, after work, and you could get there in just a couple minutes, or what if there was an amazing restaurant on top of a mountain, and you could fly there in just a couple minutes and it had incredible views?"

While Archer will go to market with a piloted four-passenger version, the intent with all these companies is to make eVTOL travel fully autonomous as quickly as legally possible. The prototype revealed today was a pilotless two-seater, which will serve both as an indication of the autonomous customer experience down the track, and as a demonstration testbed for use in the torturous certification process Archer will need to get through to begin commercial operations and mass manufacturing.

The doors go like this, baby
The doors go like this, baby

The co-founders then opened up the prototype's doors – gullwings, as if you'd expect anything less out of Silicon Valley (NSFW language warning) – and demonstrated a spacious and comfy-looking interior with plenty of room for luggage. The large tinted wraparound window gives you some 270 degrees of unimpeded views, from which you can look down and laugh at the schmucks crawling along bumper-to-bumper below. A touchscreen gives you the kind of information you'll need; maps, airspeed, time to destination, an indication of whether your ground transport's ready to pick you up from the pad, that sort of thing.

"For the last year and a half," said Adcock, "we've been working closely with the FAA on our piloted four-passenger aircraft. Safety is our number one goal. There's a multi-year roadmap designed around high safety. Our third step is to launch commercial routes in cities, and integrate autonomous systems for safety. We're excited to have Maker at the forefront of our autonomous capabilities, and we're pushing hard on engineering problems, such as GPS-denied navigation and sense & avoid. We announced earlier this year, we'll be launching in both Los Angeles and Miami. Both are incredible partners for us, with lots of traffic, ideal infrastructure for landing sites, and communities very proactive to reduce congestion and move to a sustainable form of transportation."

Unsurprisingly, no mention was made of legal proceedings that are underway after Wisk accused Archer of stealing its designs. Archer has described the accusations as "totally baseless," saying Wisk's lawsuit "does not identify a single specific Wisk trade secret, let alone any evidence of misappropriation." Archer has filed a Motion to Dismiss, as well as a counter-claim against Wisk for "tortious interference and unfair competition, alleging that Wisk has made false and unsupported public statements outside of the litigation, designed to harm Archer, a successful competitor."

You can check out the full launch event below, complete with some pretty slick production that placed the prototype on an LED-screen floor to allow a weird on-stage simulated flight. Enjoy!

Maker Unveil Event - Livestream

Source: Archer

View gallery - 14 images
11 comments
11 comments
BlueOak
The autonomous safety talk is good, but with autonomy, I’d also be very interested in the levels of redundancy of the various systems?

When a failure happens on a helicopter, the difference between surviving and not can be a highly skilled pilot.

BTW, next time they might want to turn on the lights so their promo photos actually show the product. ;-)
jerryd
Why would someone steal this costly complicated design? You'd have to be dumb to do that.
Multicopters are not efficient enough to work and all the added weight, complications of many tilting rotors just cuts range, payload.
Just replace everything but the cabin with a simple 2 25' diameter rotors shaft above the cabin that tilts in the direction you want to go will have double, triple range on the same battery.
paul314
So their business plan is for urban congestion to get consistently worse, making their vehicle seem like a good idea for people who can afford it. But in this dystopian world supply chains and advanced manufacturing will still work perfectly.
dan
looks like a reasonable approach with the focus on attracting money... But let's be clear, if transportation shall be ecological and energy saving, it won't be up in the air... Even the oldest car will use less energy than any eVTOL with a MTOW of 7'000 lb. So let's name it a gadget for the wealthy, which is nice to develop. Redundant systems, auto-piloted including sense and avoid etc. does not sound cheap.
dan
Promising a range of 30 miles sounds more realistic, maybe 15 miles at the end. But no worries, battery technology improves constantly 1-2 % ver year, so in a decade you may get 35 miles promised and actually 20 miles range. However, most people need to commute further to work. And if the cost is beyond 1 or two million or more, it is likely for people who do not need to commute... So, the market could be a pick up service from there villa to their private jet. Yes, of course, it is all about eco-friendly technology...
ljaques
Cool plane, but I doubt that cross-town niche will live very long. Much cooler LED stage and background. Wow!
Towerman
@ BlueOakRedundancy is an integral part of an EVTOL system, they work hand in hand and integration is virtually seamless because of the very nature of the technology so nothing to stress about. And with a helicopter pilot not even a skilled pilot is good enough if something goes wrong (which it does many a times)

@Jerryd
Again posting your uneducated guesses.
Multicopters ARE efficient and the weight of an electrical system outweighs the weight of a big heavy complicated ICE system with heavy maintenance prone gearboxes.

The tilting mechanism is light, this is not a mega ton Osprey needing to lift horses and elephants ! ;)

A single rotor will be heavy and complicate the head, you'll be back to square one, NO Technologically advanced Multicopters are here to stay and for good reason !

@Paul
Whether it works or not is not the point, It's making it work better that is important.

Towerman

@ Dan,

And Yet Again you post uneducated guesses and NO helicopters are for the very elite and super rich you completely have it backwards.

Multicopters will be cheap and efficient.
Ground transport are slow and not efficient at all ! Thats why we have air postal services ! Get out of the cave and get with the future !

No 30 miles promised will be 30 miles given, enough distance for daily commutes, the future of EVTOL's are Bright and will be part of our daily lives to come like bread at the local bakery.

@ljaques

That niche will not only live long, it will revolutionize the way we travel. Either get in one or be left behind in it's wake ;)
Towerman
My sentence in my first post above might be misinterpreted: when i said "Multicopters ARE efficient and the weight of an electrical system outweighs the weight of a big heavy complicated ICE system"

I meant to say the electrical system of a multicopter is lighter than an ICE system. So the benefits of an electrical system outweighs the negatives compared to an ICE system
BlueOak
@Towerman,

Your credibility is undercut with statements like:

“And with a helicopter pilot not even a skilled pilot is good enough if something goes wrong (which it does many a times)”

Do some research. Helicopter mechanical failures are very survivable with a good pilot. (Have you ever known a helicopter pilot or ridden in a helicopter? Talk to one sometime to learn the facts.)