Archer's flying taxi makes splashy debut in heated market

By Omar Younis and Tracy Rucinski
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Archer Aviation unveiled its first Tesla-style electric air taxi "Maker" on Thursday as more investors and aviation companies crowd into the hot, yet-to-be-approved urban air mobility space.
Interest in zero-emission aircraft that take off and land like helicopters but fly like airplanes is growing as aerospace companies seek new markets and are under pressure to decarbonise their industries with battery-powered vehicles.
Maker's debut, staged in a hangar using XR technology to simulate a ride, followed on Thursday news of two separate deals with electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft companies based in the UK and Brazil.
Archer's plane isn't commercially flying yet, but it did put on an extravagant show under new Chief Creative Officer Kenny Taht, who has decades of experience design and television production experience to grab attention.
Archer expects Maker's commercial launch in Los Angeles and Miami in 2024 and is in the process of certifying the four-person piloted aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration, co-founder and co-CEO Brett Adcock told Reuters.
"Our real goal is to create a mass market transportation solution in and around cities," said Adcock.
Taxis can fly at 150 miles per hour (240 km per hour) for distances of up to 100 km for a starting price of between $ 3 and $ 4 per passenger mile.
In New York City, for example, the 17-mile drive from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Manhattan would cost $ 50 to $ 70 and take about five to seven minutes compared to 60 to 90 minutes by car.
While experts estimate the eVTOL market to be worth billions over the next decade, it is not expected to make money right away and the timing of regulatory approval remains uncertain.
When asked about the approval process, the FAA said, “The FAA can certify new technologies such as eVTOLs through its existing regulations. We can issue special conditions or additional requirements depending on the type of project. "
When the market warms up, so does competition.
Archer is currently in a lawsuit with Boeing-backed competitor Wisk Aero, who is accused of stealing trade secrets and infringing its patents.
Archer last week urged a California court to dismiss the lawsuit and sued Wisk for "false testimony" in relation to a separate criminal investigation.
Archer plans to go public through a merger with blank check company Atlas Crest for $ 3.8 billion and has a $ 1 billion investment and contract from United Airlines.
(Reporting by Omar Younis in Los Angeles and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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