California-based company Archer Aviation has unveiled its production model, Midnight, a pilot-plus-four-passenger eVTOL aircraft. Midnight is the evolution of Archer’s demonstrator eVTOL aircraft, Maker, which has validated its proprietary 12-tilt-six configuration and key enabling technologies.
Designed to be safe, sustainable and quiet, with its expected payload of more than 450 kilograms, Midnight has been optimised for back-to-back short-distance trips of about 30 kilometres, with a charging time of about ten minutes in between. Archer is working to certify Midnight with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) by late 2024 and will then use it as part of its urban air mobility network, which 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,’ said Adam Goldstein, Archer’s founder and CEO. ‘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 USA with the FAA.’
According to the company, Archer’s unique approach to designing Midnight has focused on combining high function and high emotion, inspiring passengers to want to experience it – similar to the feeling that was evoked during the Golden Age of aviation in the 1950s. Archer is confident that Midnight will lead the way in this new era of vertical flight.
Midnight marries cutting-edge electric propulsion technology with state-of-the-art aircraft systems to deliver a number of key attributes. High redundancy and simplified propulsion systems make for a significantly safer aircraft compared to a helicopter. 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 Midnight have significantly fewer moving parts than those found in gas-turbine or piston engines, allowing it to operate with less maintenance and lower overall risk.
Designed to cruise at about 2,000 feet, the noise from Midnight at ground level is expected to measure around 45 A-weighted decibels, almost 1,000 times quieter than a helicopter. During forward flight, the aircraft’s 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, which further decreases 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.
Midnight is all electric, resulting in zero operating emissions, and Archer is committed to sourcing renewable energy wherever possible to power its aircraft. Archer’s design and engineering teams have also tried wherever possible to integrate materials into the aircraft that have their own unique sustainability stories. For example, Midnight’s seats are constructed from flax fibre, which is derived from a plant that requires very little irrigation and is highly absorbent of CO2. In addition, Archer’s design uses fabric made from recycled material.
In August, Archer completed 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 Maker’s flight-testing programme and is on schedule to complete a full transition flight in the coming weeks, just a year after its first hover flight. Achieving this milestone will further validate the flight physics of Archer’s proprietary 12-tilt-six configuration, which it uses on both Maker and Midnight, as well as a number of the key enabling technologies, such as the aircraft’s flight-control system. The Maker flight-test programme has generated invaluable data that Archer has used to guide Midnight’s development and certification path.
‘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,’ said Mark Mesler, Archer’s CFO.