Passengers head toward a tiny aircraft that isn't quite a helicopter or a propellor plane.

Enlarge / An artist’s rendering of Archer’s first aircraft, due out in 2024. (credit: Archer)

The success of uncrewed electric drones in the last couple of decades has caused some people to wonder if similar construction techniques to those used in drones could be employed to create small electric aircraft to carry people.

Not only are electric motors more reliable than conventional engines, but they’re also light enough that you can put several of them on a single aircraft, offering an extra margin of safety. The ability to use several motors—together with sophisticated software—means greater design flexibility, opening the door to new types of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft that straddle the line between conventional airplane and helicopter.

This technology got overhyped in the late 2010s. Uber, for example, announced in 2017 that it was aiming to launch a VTOL taxi service in Dallas and Dubai in 2020. Instead, Uber sold off its air taxi efforts to startup Joby in December 2020.

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