Archer Aviation, the electric aircraft startup that recently announced a deal to go public via a merger with a blank-check company, plans to launch a network of its urban air taxis in Los Angeles by 2024.
The announcement comes two months after the formation of the Urban Air Mobility Partnership, a one-year initiative between Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation and Urban Movement Labs to develop a plan for how to integrate urban aircraft into existing transportation networks and land use policies. Urban Movement Labs, launched in November 2019, is a public-private partnership involving local government and companies to develop, test and deploy transportation technologies. Urban Movement Labs and the city of Los Angeles are working on the design and access of “vertiports,” where people can go to fly on an “urban air mobility” aircraft. Urban air mobility, or UAM, is industry-speak for a highly automated aircraft that can operate and transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes within urban and suburban areas.
Archer Aviation’s announcement comes two weeks since it landed United Airlines as a customer and an investor in its bid to become a publicly traded company via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company. Archer Aviation reached an agreement in early February to merge with special purpose acquisition company Atlas Crest Investment Corp., an increasingly common financial path that allows the startup to eschew the once traditional IPO process. The combined company, which will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange with ticker symbol “ACHR,” will have an equity valuation of $3.8 billion.
United Airlines, which has a major hub in Los Angeles, was one of the investors in the deal. Under the terms of its agreement, United placed an order for $1 billion of Archer’s aircraft. United has the option to buy an additional $500 million of aircraft.
“Archer’s commitment to launch their first eVTOL aircraft in one of United’s hubs means our customers are another step closer to reducing their carbon footprint at every stage of their journey, before they even take their seat,” Michael Leskinen, vice president of corporate development and investor relations at United Airlines, said in a statement. “We’re confident that Los Angeles is only the beginning for Archer and we look forward to helping them extend their reach across all of our Hubs.”
Archer has a ways to go before it’s ready to shuttle passengers. The company has yet to mass produce its electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, which is designed to travel up to 60 miles on a single charge at speeds of 150 miles per hour. The company previously said it plans to unveil its full-scale eVTOL later this year and is aiming to begin volume manufacturing in 2023.
Designing and building a hub of vertiports is among the numerous tasks that must be completed in the next three years. Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein, the company’s co-founders and co-CEOs, have said they’re open to using existing infrastructure such as helipads and parking garages in the short term. Their eVTOL, known as “Maker,” is built to fit within the size of the existing infrastructure, according to the company. That flexibility, assuming the Urban Air Mobility Partnership agrees with the strategy, could help Archer meet its 2024 deadline.