United Airlines to buy electric helicopters for $1B

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Funkworks

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Here’s an article on the subject:

Company also involved with Fiat-Chrysler
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/12/electric-flying-car-start-up-archer-teams-up-with-fiat-chrysler.html

Also about to go public:
 

Funkworks

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I sure hope I get to ride in one! (or any other low-noise electric aircraft for that matter)

Oh let me assure you: if your smartphone or home computer ran on diesel or kerosene, we wouldn't be here as often!
 
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kuririn

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Hmmm. Electric helicopters.
Great idea, but you need a really l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng extension cord.
:D
 

Funkworks

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Hmmm. Electric helicopters.
Great idea, but you need a really l-o-o-o-o-o-o-ng extension cord.
:D
That's always been the barrier to electric flight of course and avoiding it is a holy grail, but I'm telling ya, in the last few decades, battery efficiency has jumped by leaps and bounds!

Not a helicopter, eVTOL is the proper category.
Nice to know there's a category!
(Still looks like a non-standard helicopter to me and probably to other lay people.)
 
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KC3KNM

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I’d be hesitant to invest in Archer, at least near term. AFAIK they don’t have much more than paper airplanes, while many others fighting for the same market share in urban air mobility are already pretty deep into flight testing. We’ve been flying full scale prototypes for a few years now, other companies longer than that. I’m not sure the stipulations of the United deal, but thats not something I’d invest on alone.

Also all this crazy articulating motor stuff sketches me out. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but it just seems like more complexity in manufacturing and higher maintenance costs.
 
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KC3KNM

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Nice to know there's a category!
(Still looks like a non-standard helicopter to me and probably to other lay people.)

If you’re interested in eVTOL there’s a ton of great info here. There’s some really wild stuff being built, it’s a cool time in aviation.
 

Funkworks

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Oh this isn't enough by itself to make me invest, but when a major airline pumps in $1B, it's a darn good sign of progress.

Interested in e-flight in general but can't really keep up with it.
 

KC3KNM

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Oh this isn't enough by itself to make me invest, but when a major airline pumps in $1B, it's a darn good sign of progress.

Interested in e-flight in general but can't really keep up with it.
“United has now put in a (highly provisional) US$1 billion dollar order for "up to 200" of Archer's Maker eVTOL air taxis, with an option for an additional 500 million's worth down the track.”

It’s not a guarantee. Still exciting, I hope they’re flying soon!
 

kuririn

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I hope they’re flying soon!
Depends on your definition of soon. The CEO said in the video "delivery in 3 years".
And doesn't he look like a college undergrad? A little unsettling.
 

KC3KNM

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Depends on your definition of soon. The CEO said in the video "delivery in 3 years".
And doesn't he look like a college undergrad? A little unsettling.
Going from an 80% scale model to delivery to customer in that timeframe is a little ambitious.

I’m getting Nikola vibes, but I guess we’ll see.
 

CalebJ

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Going from an 80% scale model to delivery to customer in that timeframe is a little ambitious.

I’m getting Nikola vibes, but I guess we’ll see.
I'd totally missed the Nikola saga over the last few months. That led me down quite a rabbit trail of articles. Yikes.
 

Funkworks

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Depends on your definition of soon. The CEO said in the video "delivery in 3 years".
And doesn't he look like a college undergrad? A little unsettling.
He's young but so were the others who created our digital world in the last 25 years so I wouldn't go by that measurea alone, especially when they're backed by more experienced people (such as a major airline). If looks count, I'd say this one doesn't look like a crook. Anyway, I get excited by new tech and electric flight is a big one.
 

ksaves2

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My problem with this technology is what happens if a few semiconductors fry themselves on the control boards? Or if the lipos have a runaway thermal event and turns into a fireball? Pick your death.
At least with planes there is a chance of a successful forced landing or with a motor failure in a helicopter can auto rotate to landing. Kurt
 

les

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My problem with this technology is what happens if a few semiconductors fry themselves on the control boards? Or if the lipos have a runaway thermal event and turns into a fireball? Pick your death.
At least with planes there is a chance of a successful forced landing or with a motor failure in a helicopter can auto rotate to landing. Kurt

Redundancy, testing/certification, battery cell isolation (so one battery cell "running away" won't impact other cells), etc.

Consider most modern aircraft - there is no longer mechanical linkage from the pilots stick to the surfaces, it is all electronics/hydraulics. Pilot stick sends signal to computer, computer then controls actuators. So if you are concerned about fried semiconductors - don't fly.........
 

Funkworks

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Aviation is all about redundancy. The six rotors are probably not all necessary for a safe landing but that’s only a visible part. There’s all sorts of other tricks one can do and it’s all part of e-flight R&D.

Auto-rotation probably still works. Frying circuits aren't fatal. Risk can be reduced as low as it needs to be. Lots of preventive maintenance on aircraft. Much more than with cars. Less moving parts also means less things can go wrong. Replace the circuits each year, month or week. Any way you look at it, BEVs need less maintenance than ICEs but you can always replace everything after each flight if you want to.
 

KC3KNM

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Aviation is all about redundancy. The six rotors are probably not all necessary for a safe landing but that’s only a visible part. There’s all sorts of other tricks one can do and it’s all part of e-flight R&D.

Auto-rotation probably still works. Frying circuits aren't fatal. Risk can be reduced as low as it needs to be. Lots of preventive maintenance on aircraft. Much more than with cars. Less moving parts also means less things can go wrong. Replace the circuits each year, month or week. Any way you look at it, BEVs need less maintenance than ICEs but you can always replace everything after each flight if you want to.
It's got a wing, so auto-rotation shouldn't be necessary. Plus if you're too low and slow for the wing auto-rotation is likely pointless, I'm not sure it's even possible with the smaller props (though, I'm pretty clueless there). Replacing everything after each flight seems prohibitively expensive and wouldn't make for very efficient air taxis. 😅

I just don't understand how they expect to test the aircraft, certify it, work out manufacturing and figure out charging infrastructure in three years.

We're in the Agility Prime program with the AF to help speed up certification. I don't play a part there, but from what I gather it's a long road for everyone still. I'm not sure how soon we or Joby will be certified and producing aircraft, and we've both got a huge head start over Archer.

 

ksaves2

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Redundancy, testing/certification, battery cell isolation (so one battery cell "running away" won't impact other cells), etc.

Consider most modern aircraft - there is no longer mechanical linkage from the pilots stick to the surfaces, it is all electronics/hydraulics. Pilot stick sends signal to computer, computer then controls actuators. So if you are concerned about fried semiconductors - don't fly.........
I won't fly at least in those multi-rotored electric upsized models. Will take the limo home from the airport. Too many things can go wrong especially if everything is automated and no pilot. Certification isn't everything. Just ask Boeing about the 737 MAX. I probably won't live long enough until I'd be comfortable with the technology. I don't have anywhere to go anyways. Oh FYI, I subscribe and read AWST front to back every issue. Kurt
 

ksaves2

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Never trust the first generation of anything.

M
Ditto,
Another thing is hard landing and cell rupture. Haven't there been reports of electric vehicles catching fire after an accident if the battery pack ruptures? Yeah, yeah, I know same thing with gasoline but at least a tank is generally away from the passenger compartment. If a lithium power pack is under the passengers that might be a bit worrisome.
Speaking of gas combustion. Wasn't there a model year of the Ford Lincoln Continental that had a tendency to catch fire in the engine compartment? Reason I ask is it happened to my Mom with her Lincoln. She was at a volunteer job at a local hospital and someone reported a fire in a vehicle in the parking lot in the engine compartment. It was her Lincoln sedan and was destroyed by the fire.
I was driving home from Peoria, Illinois one fine spring Sunday a few years later and hit a traffic jam on a not so busy road. Off to the side was a Lincoln-Continental ablaze in the engine compartment. Fire department hadn't made it there yet. The well dressed family was standing off to the side so no one was hurt. I believe the car started fire while driving and they were able to pull over and bail out. I passed a fire department water tanker truck going the other way to the scene. Sorry for drifting OT here but I remembered these interesting vehicle fires and cursory search on my part revealed nothing I could easily find. Kurt
 

les

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Certification isn't everything. Just ask Boeing about the 737 MAX.
Where they introduced a system WITHOUT redundancy....

The thought was if the system failed the pilot could disable it - unfortunately the level of training that was provided to the pilots was weak and they were either unaware of how to disable the system or even that there was a system that needed to be disabled........

Actually, I am more concerned with auto traffic. All the newer cars are getting "smarter" with lane departure, auto distance when in cruise control, auto braking, and other safety features that are allowing drivers to get complacent, and virtually every system on every car is simplex. The automobile industry is just starting to look into adding redundancy (which will also add costs). Meanwhile, as these cars get older and the systems start acting wonky, how many more accidents will occur?
 

kuririn

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So how would an aviation fueled motor be better than an electric one? In either case if they fail you drop.
Multiple motors can keep you flying but that would be true no matter what the power source.
 

NateB

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Yeah, yeah, I know same thing with gasoline but at least a tank is generally away from the passenger compartment. If a lithium power pack is under the passengers that might be a bit worrisome.
We have fuel bladders under the floor of the helicopter cabin and the transmission is over our heads. So we sit on top of Jet A and under a heavy transmission, what could go wrong?

At least the bladders stay in tact easier on a hard landing than tanks did. Batteries have become safer, but there are still plenty of hazards with them once they loose their integrity. Electric aircraft seems appealing, but right now I'll stick it in RC models and trust the jet engines until the technology is better proven.
 

bakerely

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Just by the name eVTOL, it made me hopeful for the near future. Road traffic is still bad as it is (maybe more or less) even if there's a pandemic going on so having one of these eVTOLs will surely lessen the gravity of the traffic. Also, being electric as it is, it's going to help lessen the usage of nonrenewable natural resources and just focus on the renewable ones like solar energy and the energy from the sea and ocean waves. It won't be as hot as it was, even just by a decimal percentage. Searching more on eVTOL companies, maybe you have heard of Astro Aerospace? What do you think of it?
 
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