Archer's production-spec Midnight eVTOL starts flight testing
The eVTOL air taxi Archer is pushing toward production has now lifted off for the first time. The handsome, five-seat Midnight aircraft is scheduled to enter service in 2025, providing clean, quiet, short-range, traffic-busting hops over urban areas.
This 12-prop, V-tailed beauty, lightly reminiscent of a sperm whale from some angles, is designed for speeds up to 150 mph (241 km/h) in wingborne cruise mode with the front six props tilted forward. It has a maximum range of 100 miles (161 km) – that's not huge next to what Lilium or Joby are targeting, but in reality Archer is totally focused on short cross-town commuting.
As such, the company expects the bulk of its flights to be between 20 and 50 miles (32 and 80 km), and it's optimized its aircraft for back-to-back 20-milers with a 12-minute charge in between. The value proposition here is to replace 60-to-90-minute car commutes with 10 to 20 minutes of clean, electric flight at prices much more affordable than helicopters.
Archer has been flying its earlier, two-seat Maker prototype since December 2021. Twelve months later, it had achieved a full transition to wingborne cruise mode. The Midnight aircraft is substantially larger and more expensive-looking, but Archer says it's aiming to get into transition and cruise testing "rapidly" in the "coming months."
“Having taken seven full-size eVTOL aircraft from design to flight test during my career in the eVTOL industry, today’s milestone with Midnight marks the most significant flight to date," said Archer COO Tom Muniz, in a press release, "bringing Archer and the eVTOL industry another step closer to bringing a scalable and commercially viable aircraft to market.”
The chief hurdle for (nearly) all eVTOL companies at this point is FAA/EASA certification. Archer is aiming to begin "for credit" testing toward type certification for the Midnight aircraft in 2024 – and in the meantime, it's running city-wide simulations to start tightening up its operations ahead of launch.
Mind you, the FAA doesn't have to adhere to any company's timelines, so it'll be interesting to see how the key dates for Archer, Joby, Beta, and others in this space evolve over the next 24 months.
Source: Archer Aviation