A California-based startup called Archer Aviation unveiled a "fully autonomous" electrical vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi called Maker during a live event on June 11, with first flights planned for later this year, the company explained in a press statement.
The Maker aircraft is a prototype, which Archer will use to perform tests in order to gain certification. The company hopes to eventually build a larger production eVTOL aircraft for commercial intracity transportation.
Much like Volocopter's recently revealed VoloConnect aircraft, the Maker launches using vertical facing rotors before transitioning to fixed-wing flight like that of a plane, reaching speeds up to 150 mph (240 km/h).
The 3,300-lb (1496 kg) craft features a 40-foot (12.2 m) wingspan on which 12 rotors are placed, in a design typical of other eVTOL prototypes.
The difference here, according to a report by CNET, is that the aircraft uses six large, five-bladed props that provide most of the lift, as well as six smaller, two-blade rotors that are only used when the aircraft is hovering and cruising.
By combining the larger rotors with smaller ones with a lower "tip speed," Archer said its aircraft is 100 times quieter than a traditional helicopter, making it ideal for urban spaces. To be precise, the Maker hums at around 45 decibels (dB) when cruising at around 2,000 feet — an average helicopter would typically let off approximately 87 dB of sound.
First commercial flight could be as early as 2024
The Maker utilizes six independent battery packs, each with a capacity of 75 kWh, and it can rapidly recharge its batteries in just 10 minutes.
Though Archer Aviation said Maker will be "fully autonomous," it will have a human pilot for safety purposes, as well as space for four passengers.
Archer Aviation envisions one of its aircraft's services as shuttling VIP passengers from airports to city center in a short amount of time — it could get from San Francisco Airport to San Jose in only 17 minutes, for example.
Archer expects to complete its first Maker test flight during Q4 of this year. United Airlines has already announced plans to buy $1 billion worth of the company's upcoming air taxi, in a bid to reduce its carbon footprint. The first commercial flights could launch in 2024 in Los Angeles and Miami — a little after Volocopter aims to launch its own air taxis in Paris and Singapore.