Source: Business Insider
The era of electric air taxis is near, but a regulatory change has created an obstacle for manufacturers.
While the FAA has made progress, the lack of guidance has left air taxi companies in limbo as they do not know how the future laws could impact design and production.
Until early 2022, electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles — known as eVTOLs — were on track to enter the market by next year. With their zero emissions, quiet propulsion system, and low operating costs, airlines see these passenger crafts as a solution to intercity transport and are already placing orders.
However, a change in how the aircraft will be categorized in the eyes of the Federal Aviation Administration has created uncertainty.
In March 2022, the agency changed the eVTOL certification category to "power-lift" because it flies like a plane but takes off and lands like a helicopter. This means the criteria for certification have changed because it is no longer considered just a regular airplane.
There are few laws that govern this type of flying, so the FAA will need time to create new regulations — particularly surrounding pilot ratings.
While the FAA has made progress, the lack of guidance has left air taxi companies in limbo as they do not know how the future laws could impact design and production — effectively delaying the launch of some eVTOLs, like Joby Aviation's air taxi that Delta Air Lines ordered in October.
However, some companies have held firm in their timeline. Insider spoke with Archer Aviation CEO Adam Goldstein to learn more about the status of eVTOL certification and the future of its "Midnight" air taxi.
Archer's Midnight eVTOL aims to compete with industry leaders like Joby Aviation, Vertical Aerospace, and Boeing-backed Wisk. United Airlines has ordered $1 billion worth of Archer's electric air taxi designed for short-haul flights. Archer remains optimistic about the planned 2025 commercial debut despite potential regulatory challenges. The eVTOL's innovative design reduces emissions and noise with battery-powered propellers. Archer envisions meeting the demand for fast and quiet short-distance travel. Infrastructure and air traffic control are key focuses while the FAA works on certification. Archer's manufacturing facilities will support the production of hundreds to thousands of eVTOLs annually. The company's long-term vision is to become a comprehensive air taxi service provider, offering convenient travel options worldwide.