A new week means it’s time for a new another new electric flying personal aircraft company to make an announcement, in this case Archer Aviation.
California-based Archer Aviation Inc. plans to unveil its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, dubbed Midnight, Nov. 16. Where it will offer new some insight into its iteration of the latest rage among electric mobility companies: personal-sized aircraft.
In Archer’s case, it plans to get its air taxis certified for use by the FAA in 2024, and then to produce about 250 units of the Midnight in 2025.
“In our first year, we will build 250 aircraft, our second year will build 500 aircraft, our third year will build 650 aircraft and then we scale it up to around 2,000 aircraft per year,” Archer CEO Adam Goldstein told Reuters.
Archer expects to not only use next month’s event to provide further details on the Midnight’s specifications and capabilities, including its proprietary electric powertrain system, but also detail its progress towards Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for the Midnight. However, the FAA has not yet finalized certification rules for eVTOL air taxis, so there is still some uncertainty about standards.
The company will offer attendees an opportunity to view a test flight of the company’s full-scale technology demonstrator at Archer’s flight test facility. The Midnight is expected to have a functional payload of about 1,000 pounds, which is potentially enough for four passengers and a pilot, if they’re skinny, or less if luggage is included.
Midnight will have a charging turnaround time of approximately 10 minutes for the company’s target flights, enabling Archer’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) operating model, the company said. Essentially, that makes it ideal for use as an air taxi between buildings in an urban setting.
The FAA defines UAM as “a safe and efficient aviation transportation system that will use highly automated aircraft that will operate and transport passengers or cargo at lower altitudes within urban and suburban areas.”
Support from United Airlines and Stellantis
Bolstering the company’s plans, in August of this year United Airlines made a $10 million pre-delivery payment on a plan to buy 100 units of the Midnight. The investment from United came as the aircraft passed a Preliminary Design Review (PDR) covering all aspects of the aircraft’s specifications and manufacturing requirements. Among the necessary pre-conditions for successful design review are determinations that the Midnight is feasible for regulatory compliance and viable in the market.
“From day one, Archer’s goal has been to build a commercially viable business that will revolutionize intra-city travel. We’ve made phenomenal progress in the development of our eVTOL aircraft technology and I am excited to share the aircraft that will deliver on that vision as part of our Open House event” Goldstein said.
Partners participating in the event will include United Airlines, as well as global automotive manufacturer, Stellantis. The automotive company has been working with Archer since early in its eVTOL aircraft’s development, and is a key partner in Archer’s plans to achieve manufacturing at scale for its aircraft.
A crowded market segment
In addition to Archer, the eVTOL market segment is targeted by competitors including Joby Aviation and Vertical Aerospace Limited, among others. Vertical Aerospace is working with American Airlines and Honeywell International, and Joby recently passed initial FAA scrutiny and is partnered with Toyota, so there is some consensus in the industry that these electric air taxis have a future market.
As always, the FAA will have the last word. The government agency has stated that it will seek “a predictable framework that will better accommodate the need to train and certify the pilots who will operate these novel aircraft.”