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Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation executives reiterated ambitious schedules for bringing their eVTOL aircraft to market, but also acknowledged challenges to achieving plans to enter air taxi service in 2025.
The California advanced air mobility developers have among the fastest timelines to certify eVTOLs, and both received proposed airworthiness criteria from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in late 2022, a key milestone toward certification.
Speaking this week at the Vertical Flight Society’s (VFS) eVTOL Symposium in Mesa, Arizona, Archer CEO Adam Goldstein and Joby head of product Eric Allison said their companies are on track for FAA type certification in 2024 and entry into service in 2025.
“That sounds very aggressive,” Goldstein conceded. “It definitely is aggressive. But from a technology roadmap perspective, Archer will be ready. We’re progressing very well with the FAA.”
Archer’s Midnight eVTOL is designed as a four-passenger, piloted aircraft with a range of up to 100 miles (160 kilometers) and maximum speeds of up to 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour).
“It’s still day zero in urban air mobility [UAM],” he explained. “We’re just starting to certify these aircraft, so even though we’re moving very quickly, there is so much more to do. We need to figure out how to manufacture these vehicles at scale. We need to build networks to make them useful so people can start to adopt them on an everyday basis. There is a big supply chain that needs to be built out.”
Archer head of government relations Mike Romanowski, also speaking at the VFS symposium, said the company is “hard core in the certification phase right now” and remains “very confident we’ll be fully certified by the end of 2024.”
He said there is a “very strong emphasis” at the FAA “to make advanced air mobility and urban air mobility happen. The core of our aircraft is quite conventional … We actually view our certification path as quite conventional. A lot of [the Midnight] is very, very standard. We’re not doing exotic things. We’re not using additive manufacturing. We’re not doing autonomy … Neither we nor the FAA have to do a lot of invention.”
Romanowski explained that Archer has deliberately designed the Midnight as a “low risk” aircraft. The company is not seeking to have the fastest eVTOL with the longest range, he noted. Instead, Archer is focusing on a “sweet spot” of high-frequency 10 to 20 mi (16 to 32 km) flights in urban areas.
Meanwhile, Joby is seeking to build its eVTOL with leading specs in terms of range and speed. The S4 eVTOL is also a four-passenger, piloted aircraft. It is designed to have a range of 150 mi (240 km) with a maximum speed of 200 mph (320 km/h).
Allison said Joby is proving through flight testing that the S4 will be ready to enter service in 2025. Test flights have been operated “very, very efficiently and, importantly, very, very quietly,” he said of the six tiltrotor eVTOL.
Allison said Joby is demonstrating how quickly the S4 can transition between modes, driving high air taxi utilization.
“You don’t sit there and warm up [before taking off],” Allison explained. “You turn it on, you take off and you fly away. When you land, you don’t cool down. You land and it turns off and it’s quiet.”
He added that eVTOLs first hitting the market in the middle of this decade will show just the tip of the iceberg of the technology’s potential.
“So what comes next? Where does it go from there? Well, batteries will get better,” Allison said, noting that increasing battery storage capabilities will open up new possibilities for eVTOLs, such as longer distance flights and more hovering ability.
The first versions of in-service eVTOLs will “form the basis of this industry that we’re building right now,” Allison said. “UAM is an amazing market that is going to open up as the technology keeps getting better … The technology will get better and eventually that new technology will be a disruptive technology that will meet or exceed the incumbent technologies’ performance and greatly increase the overall possible value [of eVTOLs].”