Friday, February 23, 2024

Archer’s Midnight electric air taxi completes Phase 1 of its flight tests

Archer Aviation has announced that its Midnight electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft has hit another key milestone with the completion of Phase 1 of its flight test program.

Archer’s Midnight aircraft has achieved this important milestone in just three months by utilizing the lessons from its previous four years of flight testing. This is significantly faster than Archer’s full-scale prototype aircraft – Maker.

Additionally, Midnight’s battery system has recently been upgraded to include some of the first high-voltage battery packs off of Archer’s manufacturing line at its San Jose, California, facilities, a significant step as the company pushes towards being production-ready. The company is now closer than ever to completing its first full wing-borne transition flight and begin piloted “for credit” testing with the FAA later this year.

Phase 1 of Midnight’s flight test program covered an array of progressively more complex flight maneuvers and data-gathering missions. The next step is Phase 2, which involves expanding the aircraft’s flight envelope by gradually increasing its speed until it achieves full wing-borne transition. This is a significant milestone for any vertical takeoff and landing aircraft as it demonstrates its capability to take off, land vertically, and cruise efficiently in windborne flight.

After completing this phase, the aircraft will move on to Phase 3, where it will be flying simulated commercial routes to showcase its operational readiness.

“Midnight is progressing efficiently through our flight test program,” said Archer’s founder and CEO Adam Goldstein in the release. “Over the last four years of flight testing, our team has been able to gather a tremendous amount of data and learnings that enable us to advance Midnight rapidly towards certification. Our team’s focus on safety and relentless execution has gotten us to where we are today and what will allow us to achieve what no other company in the world has done to date–bring electric air taxis to cities across the U.S. and the globe.”

The Midnight prototypes have been flying since late October. It can take off, hover, turn, and maneuver like a multirotor drone and tilt to accelerate. The prototype uses some of Archer’s first high-voltage battery packs, which they manufacture in San Jose.

Their goal is to demonstrate the transition from hover to cruise mode, tilting its front six propellers forward and accelerating into the efficient airplane mode that’ll allow it to fly up to 100 miles (160 km) between battery top-ups, at speeds up to 150 mph (241 km/h). Archer is focused on providing shorter 20-50-mile (30-80-km) hops across town, which is where electric air taxis can be most useful as relatively affordable high-speed traffic busters.

Archer’s goal is to transform urban travel with their electric air taxi flights. They aim to replace 60–90-minute commutes by car with estimated 10-20 minute electric air taxi flights that are safe, sustainable, low noise, and cost-competitive with ground transportation. Archer will be conducting flight testing with the FAA soon and planning to have human pilots on board within the year.