Archer’s Midnight eVTOL: Urban Air Mobility Takes Off

The Archer Midnight eVTOL has a wingspan of over 49 feet.

By Jason Murray

The idea of electric take-off and landing (eVTOL) machines is as old as the science fiction books and movies of our childhood. The technology began to really take shape in and around 2009 when NASA first used Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP) technology in motors, batteries and fuel cells. This led major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Airbus, Boeing, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota to push, test and advance the concepts to a place where urban air mobility is not only a feasible idea in 2024, but a workable reality.

Based on concepts and software developed and tested by Uber Elevate, there is a growing number of startups betting their future on sky-high interest in urban air mobility (UAM). There have been several companies developing the idea for air taxis with rideshare technology, hoping to expand on the early, single-seat prototypes.

Companies like Wing and Amazon Prime Air have been offering air delivery service since 2020. Other companies are using the technology for EMS, agriculture and heavy cargo transportation. Others like Archer are committed to air travel reimagined.

Archer’s Midnight urban air mobility (UAM) aircraft was designed to modernize the idea of the everyday commute. Capable of flying up to 100 miles, Midnight is optimized for 20 to 50 mile urban trips with a 12-minute charge time in between.

The new face of eVTOL is powered by six independent packs, each supporting a pair of electric engines. With speeds up to 150 mph, this new four-person plus a certified pilot machine can make hour-long highway commutes a short flight from anywhere.

These new machines have been built with safety, safety and safety through redundancy in mind. The aircraft’s avionics are equipped with four flight control computers, with inertia navigation, GNSS and AGL sensors to keep the pilot up-to-date on every possible piece of data. Not only that, each pair of electric engines has their own power source in case of any malfunction.

Archer has put in the time to back up their technology. Between 2018 and 2020, they recruited industry-leading engineers, completed over 500 sub-scale flight tests and secured Maker configuration and flight handling. For the last few years they’ve secured partnerships with United Airlines and Stellantis and flight testing with the US Air Force. They’re one of only two to receive certification for passenger-carrying eVTOL’s with the FAA.

The Midnight (UAM) is designed to handle up to 1,000-plus pounds of payload, comfortable for four passengers, their luggage and the pilot. The lightweight composite structure makes the sleek and stylish aircraft the perfect balance between weight and strength, with leading industry aerospace composites. The full airframe of the Midnight is made of carbon fiber, ensuring the structural safety and performance of this modern flying machine.

Safe, sustainable and quiet are only a few of the things urban air mobility users require. Midnight is designed to cruise at around 2,000 feet, making its noise level almost 1,000 times quieter than a helicopter. While in flight, the aircraft’s tilt propellers are aligned with oncoming air flow, helping decrease noise levels even more. This is also optimized through 12 small propellers and not one large engine, helping to secure safety as well as lower noise in the air and on the ground.

Midnight is all electric and Archer is on the leading edge of sourcing renewable energy, including sustainable seats made of “flax” fiber and other materials like recycled plastic bottles. The future of UAMs is not only comfort, cost and low noise, but it can be a part of the new way of using sustainable supply chains to help reduce their overall footprint.

The Maker flight test program has also made it possible for Archer to develop industry-leading technology and secure certification. These steps have allowed for the first purchase and delivery of 100 aircraft on their way to taking over the horizontal and vertical flight to success.

From their manufacturing facility in Santa Clara, California, the plan is to lead and react to the needs and wants of this growing area of urban air mobility. Their goal moving forward is to replace 60-to-90-minute urban commutes by car with 10-20 minute, back-to-back flights that are safe, sustainable, low noise and cost-competitive. All this with a minimal charge time of around 10 minutes in between. This will allow for future areas of growth as regulations adapt and the competitive marketplace takes shape.

Look to see more vertiports or urban air hubs as this exciting new trend takes off. Vertiports and their availability will be key infrastructure for takeoffs and landings, as well as supporting charging facilities, maintenance and passenger services in major cities. The future will continue to see more collaborations between industry leaders, government, urban planners and community organizations, as it will be a huge part of the inevitable growth in this industry.

Archer continues to lead with more innovation, safety testing and adherence to all new present and future regulations. Their commitment to making this Saturday morning cartoon dream a reality starts now with Midnight. What the future holds for UAMs is just beyond the horizon. So start enjoying it from the comfort of your low-noise and low-emissions aircraft the next time you want to be somewhere in a hurry. Don’t sacrifice safety, style or comfort—join the exciting world of electric take-off and landing (eVTOL) machines and live your dream of the future, today.

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