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eVTOL Aircraft vs. Helicopters

It’s natural to compare a new concept to one that’s familiar. Think about how many startups there are offering on-demand, app-based services promising to be “The Netflix of _____” or the “Airbnb of ____” of their industry. But the harm in defaulting to comparisons is that many new technologies are entirely new categories of innovation. A space shuttle, for example, isn’t an airplane that goes into space: it’s a new category of aircraft. Similarly, describing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft as “flying cars” or “electric helicopters,” isn’t accurate. As Archer designs and develops its eVTOL aircraft, we’re not remixing dated models of transportation; we’re creating an entirely new frontier: urban air mobility (UAM).

More Than a Flying Car

From cartoons to books to movies, science fiction inspired us to dream of the day we would all have flying cars. But the reality of ordinary citizens with a driver’s license alternating between roads and airspace isn’t a beacon of hope; it's a marker of concern. 

Fortunately, that’s not the future we’re building.

The promise of eVTOL aircraft is that they will free people from the burdens of everyday commuter traffic: less time traveling, more time exploring. Passengers won’t be saddled with the task of maintaining the aircraft, recharging the batteries, or locating a vertiport for parking: they can simply enjoy the ride while a professional pilot handles the hard stuff.

More Than a Helicopter

The vertical takeoff and landing capability of eVTOL aircraft draws understandable comparisons to helicopters, but eVTOL aircraft differ in several crucial ways, including emissions, noise levels and safety.

First, let’s consider the environmental impact of each aircraft. The average helicopter burns through 20 gallons of fuel every hour—a burn rate that is both expensive and bad for the environment. Archer’s demonstrator eVTOL aircraft, Maker, emits zero emissions during operation as it relies on six independent battery packs instead of fossil fuel. 

From a sound perspective, eVTOL aircraft are the clear winner: Archer’s eVTOL aircraft is designed for cruising noise levels of only 45 dB* - quieter than cars or even normal conversation levels—while helicopters produce 78 dB of sound at a cruising altitude of 2,000 feet. Keep in mind that sound is measured logarithmically, so a helicopter is actually about 1000 times louder than our eVTOL aircraft is designed to be when cruising overhead.

Finally, we have the issue of safety. The Archer eVTOL aircraft design looks like a hybrid between a helicopter and an airplane, with a total of 12 motors—six forward and six aft—mounted on two wings. One of the benefits of the design is that, in the highly unlikely case that any one of those motors fails, Maker can continue to fly safely. A helicopter, by contrast, has only two rotors, which serve very different purposes: the main rotor lifts and moves the helicopter in any direction, while the tail rotor turns the helicopter in a hover. If a helicopter’s main rotor fails, the consequences are usually catastrophic. While most helicopters have hundreds of single points of catastrophic failure, Archer’s eVTOL aircraft are designed to have ZERO. 

eVTOL Aircraft as the Future of Urban Travel

Transformative innovations have a time and place. Steam-powered locomotives were a boon to transportation when they launched, but many trains are powered by electricity today. A gasoline-powered car was an improvement over literal horsepower, but common sense tells us that electric is the future of automotive travel. In that same vein, eVTOL aircraft are the natural successor to helicopters: a new technology offering better results. Fast, safe, eco-friendly, quiet and accessible, eVTOL aircraft can seize upon the promise of urban air mobility, and transform it into an accessible travel option for anyone wanting to save time and money.

* The estimate noise level on the ground while aircraft is cruising over head at an altitude of 2,000 feet.