California-based Archer Aviation is taking what it believes is the “most expeditious” path to certification — a crucial move to meet its already aggressive program where the company expects to receive type certification for its Maker eVTOL aircraft by 2024.
“As it relates to the aircraft design process, we’re not taking any bets today on technology advancements,” said Brett Adcock, co-founder and co-CEO of Archer Aviation during the company’s Q4 and full-year earnings call on Monday.
Differentiating itself from competitors such as Joby Aviation which has committed to vertical integration, Archer is instead leveraging existing certified subsystem technologies from various vendors to develop its aircraft.
“We believe this will allow us to speed our time on certification and commercialization and mitigate the need for larger engineering teams,” said Mark Mesler, chief financial officer of Archer. “This strategy allows us to deploy our capital efficiently.”
Its battery technology, for example, is one area that Adcock said he wasn’t willing to gamble on. In a declaration submitted by Archer’s attorneys during the company’s ongoing litigation with Wisk, Archer’s battery system was revealed to be that of the VersaPower battery system — an off-the-shelf product from Electric Power Systems, unlike the company’s next generation Electric Propulsion ion Core (EPiC) energy storage system that’s still in development.
“It’s a requirement for us to make sure we’re designing our aircraft with batteries that exist today and technologies that exist today,” Adcock told shareholders. “We don’t want to take any technology bets.”
Developing an aircraft with components that conform with as much of the existing U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulatory guidelines as possible is a strategy that company executives believe will keep it on pace to achieving its 2024 certification timeline.
“We’ve gone through the full G-1 certification basis, which the FAA approved for us back in September,” Adcock said. Joby Aviation is the only other eVTOL company to sign a G-1 certification basis with the FAA.
“We’ve now been working through the G-2 means of compliance work,” he said, adding the company expects to get through that work in 2022.
To stay on track with its certification program, Archer has a number of milestones it needs to check off this year. This includes achieving the first full transition cruise flight, selecting and constructing its manufacturing site, and working through the preliminary design review for its production vehicle.
This all comes on the heels of a number of achievements over the last year, including unveiling the Maker aircraft in June, completing its conceptual design review for its four-passenger production aircraft in October, and achieving its first hover flight of its demonstrator aircraft in December.
“Ultimately, our production aircraft are progressing very well and we remain on track for an official unveiling in 2023,” Adcock said.
According to its letter to shareholders, Archer closed the year with US$358 million in total operating expenses. The company also reported a net loss of US$348 million at the end of 2021, and US$747 million in cash and cash equivalents