Air Taxes Fly Toward Commercialization with United Airlines Deal

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So, there’s been a tremendous amount of conversation about the potential of small, electric-powered aircraft that could help get people get from point A to point B in a more efficient and environmentally-friendly manner. The biggest challenge these electric, vertical take-off and landing, or eVTOL, air taxis face is that while there has been a ton of product development, there’s also been very slow product adoption. However, the recent progression of a deal focused on these aircraft could change that.

Silicon Valley-based Archer Aviation has announced that United Airlines has paid a $10 million pre-delivery deposit for 100 of Archer’s Midnight model eVTOLs. This follows an initial agreement signed last February in which United agreed to order up to 200 of the aircraft from Archer.

The deal is key for two reasons. First, it moves the potential use of an air taxi from the abstract to a more concrete target of 2024. This puts pressure of the FAA to develop regulations regarding the operation of such aircraft by that time. Challenges include safety guidelines for air traffic flying at lower levels in densely populated areas. Secondly, although a number of other preliminary deals involving airlines and air taxi developers exist, United and Archer’s timeline puts added pressure on these existing deals. Throwing a competitive dynamic in the mix could help in expediting the use of air taxis by a major airline.

The 12-roter, four-passenger Midnight aircraft from Archer is projected to travel up to 60 miles on a full charge and reach speeds of up 150 mph. Half of the rotors will tilt, allowing for vertical take-offs and landings. The targeted application is seen as transporting passengers from congested urban areas to the airport. Although the actual distance will impact the price of the ticket, early projections have these flights costing about $150.

American Airlines recently reached a similar agreement with Vertical Aerospace — a company that is also working with Virgin Atlantic.

Image Credit: Archer Aviation

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2022-09-06 22:34:53

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