Archer Aviation has publicly unveiled its production aircraft Midnight, a pilot plus four passenger eVTOL aircraft, during its open house event in Palo Alto, California. Midnight is the evolution of Archer's demonstrator eVTOL aircraft Maker, which has validated its proprietary 12-tilt-six configuration and key enabling technologies.
The Midnight is designed to be safe, sustainable, quiet and, with its expected payload of over 1,000 pounds, can carry four passengers plus a pilot. The Midnight is optimised for back-to-back short distance trips of around 20 miles, with a charging time of approximately 10 minutes in between. Archer is working to certify the Midnight with the FAA in late 2024 and will then use it as part of the UAM network it plans to launch in 2025.
“From day one, Archer's strategy has always been about finding the most efficient path to commercialising eVTOL aircraft,” says founder and CEO Adam Goldstein. “We believe our strategy and team's ability to execute on it has allowed us to establish our leadership position in the market and is why we are confident we will be the first company to certify an eVTOL aircraft in the US with the FAA.”
Archer's unique approach to designing the Midnight focuses on combining high function and high emotion, inspiring passengers to want to experience it, similar to the feeling that was evoked in this country during the Golden Age of aviation in the 1950s. Archer is confident that the Midnight will lead the way in this new era of vertical flight. The Midnight marries cutting-edge electric propulsion technology with advanced aircraft systems to deliver the key attributes of Archer's eVTOL aircraft:
- Safety: high redundancy and simplified propulsion systems make for a significantly safer aircraft compared to a helicopter. The Midnight has no single critical points of failure, meaning that should any single component fail, the aircraft can still safely complete its flight. In addition, the electric motors used in the Midnight have significantly fewer moving parts than those found in a gas turbine or piston engine, allowing it to operate with less maintenance and lower overall risk.
- Low noise: designed to cruise at approximately 2,000 ft, the design of the Midnight is such that the noise that reaches the ground is expected to measure around 45 A-weighted decibels (dBA), almost 1,000 times quieter than that of a helicopter. During forward flight, the tilt propellers spin on axes that are aligned with the oncoming air flow, rather than edge-wise to the flow, as is the case with traditional helicopters, further decreasing noise levels. Since Archer's aircraft is spinning 12 small propellers rather than one large rotor, it can also spin them at significantly lower tip speeds, resulting in much lower noise levels.
- Sustainable: the Midnight is all electric, resulting in zero operating emissions. Archer is committed to sourcing renewable energy wherever possible to power its aircraft. Archer's design and engineering teams have worked tirelessly to integrate materials into this aircraft that have their own unique sustainability stories. For example, the Midnight's seats are constructed out of flax fibre, a natural plant that requires very little irrigation and is highly absorbent of CO2. In addition, Archer's design uses fabric made from recycled contents like plastic bottles.
“We continue the push towards commercialisation, with the vast majority of our resources focused on completing the development and certification of Midnight, building out our manufacturing and supply chain capabilities and hardening our go-to-market plans,” says CFO Mark Mesler.
In August, Archer completed the Midnight's preliminary design review covering all aspects of the aircraft's specifications and manufacturing requirements, which enabled it to determine that the design is feasible for type certification and commercialisation.
Archer has also made rapid progress on the Maker's flight testing programme and is on schedule to complete a full transition flight in the coming weeks, just 12 months after its first hover flight. Achieving this milestone will further validate the flight physics of Archer's proprietary 12-tilt-six configuration that it uses on both the Maker and the Midnight, as well as a number of the key enabling technologies, such as the aircraft flight control system. The Maker flight test programme has generated invaluable data that Archer has leveraged in the development and certification path of the Midnight.