United Airlines has announced a deal with Archer Aviation, a provider of sustainable air mobility products, to “contribute its expertise in airspace management to assist Archer with the development of battery-powered, short-haul aircraft.”
The agreement – which, according to a tweet from Archer Aviation, includes “a $1 billion order” – is intended to accelerate the development of short-haul electric aircraft.
United said that electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft “are expected to give customers a quick, economical and low-carbon way to get to United’s hub airports and commute in dense urban environments within the next five years.”
Once the aircraft are in operation “and have met United’s operating and business requirements,” the airline said it would acquire a fleet of 200 of the aircraft, alongside codeshare partner Mesa Airlines.
“Part of how United will combat global warming is by embracing emerging technologies that decarbonize air travel,” said United’s CEO Scott Kirby. “With the right technology, we can curb the impact aircraft have on the planet, but we have to identify the next generation of companies who will make this a reality early and find ways to help them get off the ground.”
As part of its pledge to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 100 percent by 2050, United has made a number of investments in technologies to achieve carbon neutrality.
In December, the company announced a multimillion-dollar investment in an atmospheric carbon capture technology known as Direct Air Capture. Furthermore the airline is continuing its commitment to the development and use of sustainable aviation fuel.
Archer’s aircraft are currently designed to travel distances of up to 60 miles at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, and United said that “future models will be designed to travel faster and further.”
United said it estimated that the use of the aircraft could reduce CO2 emissions by 47 percent per passenger on a trip between Hollywood and Los Angeles International Airport, one of the launch routes where Archer plans operate its fleet.
Archer said aircraft production will begin in 2023, with consumer flights launching in 2024.
“Archer’s eVTOL design, manufacturing model and engineering expertise has the clear potential to change how people commute within major metropolitan cities all over the world,” Kirby explained.