Two rivals in the race to mass-produce an all-electric aircraft said on Thursday that they had agreed to collaborate and settled a trade-secrets lawsuit that one rival, Wisk Aero, had filed against the other, Archer Aviation.
Boeing, which owns Wisk, invested an undisclosed amount in Archer. Archer said it, in turn, would exclusively use Wisk’s self-flying technology in future aircraft.
Both Wisk and Archer are developing small electric aircraft that can take off vertically, like helicopters, but fly like airplanes. Each is being designed to carry four passengers short distances, but Archer’s will initially have a pilot while Wisk is working toward autonomous flight.
Boeing said in a statement that its investment in Archer would “support the potential integration of Wisk’s autonomous technology in future variants of Archer’s aircraft, pursuant to Wisk’s exclusive right to be their autonomy provider.”
At the same time, the companies said they would end a bitter legal dispute. In 2021, Wisk sued Archer in federal court, accusing a pair of Archer engineers of stealing proprietary information when they left Wisk. Archer later sued Wisk, accusing it of engaging in a “smear campaign” against Archer.
Wisk was formed as a joint venture of Boeing and Kitty Hawk, an aviation start-up backed by the Google co-founder Larry Page. Kitty Hawk announced plans to shut down last year, and Boeing announced in May that it had acquired Wisk outright.
None of the companies disclosed the size of Boeing’s investment, but Archer said it was part of the $215 million that it had recently raised from Stellantis, the automaker whose brands include Chrysler, Fiat, Jeep and Maserati; United Airlines; and other financial institutions. Including that amount, Archer has raised more than $1.1 billion to date.
Archer, one of the leaders in the development of all-electric aircraft, also called air taxis, also said on Thursday that it had received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin flight tests of its production aircraft, Midnight, in the coming weeks.
The company plans to start commercial operations in 2025, pending F.A.A. approval. Last month, Archer announced an agreement to deliver up to six of its aircraft to the Air Force.
The F.A.A. has said it is working toward supporting a thriving air taxi market by 2028, though limited commercial operations may start sooner.
Niraj Chokshi covers the business of transportation, with a focus on airlines. More about Niraj Chokshi
Source: Read Full Article