Midnight air taxi by Archer completes phase 1 flight tests

Archer Midnight Air Taxi
Archer's Midnight is set to advance into phase 2 testing, focusing on the hover-to-cruise shift and upcoming piloted flights. Images courtesy Archer Aviation

The aviation industry is on the cusp of a transformative era with the advent of electric air taxis, and Archer’s Midnight is a prominent example of this shift. Recently, the production-spec Midnight air taxi completed the first phase of its flight tests, marking a significant milestone just three months after its initial takeoff. This progress reflects Archer’s commitment to introducing next-generation air mobility solutions.

Archer, currently ranked fifth on the AAM Reality Index, is not just progressing in the skies but also making significant strides in strategic partnerships and infrastructure development. Notably, the company has secured deals with Atlantic Aviation to develop ground infrastructure in key locations like California, Florida, and New York City, and with NASA to enhance the safety of high-performance battery systems. These collaborations underscore Archer’s holistic approach to integrating air taxis into the urban landscape.

The Midnight prototypes began their flight tests in late October, initially operating in standard multirotor mode. This phase was crucial for validating the airframe’s capabilities, including takeoff, hovering, turning, and maneuvering. The success of these tests is a testament to the viability of Archer’s high-voltage battery packs, produced in San Jose, and the overall design of the aircraft.

The next phase for the Midnight prototype involves a critical transition from hover to cruise modes. This transition is pivotal as it allows the aircraft to tilt its front six propellers forward, shifting from a drone-like hovering to a more efficient, wing-borne airplane mode. This capability is essential for the Midnight to achieve its targeted range of approximately 100 miles (160 km) and speeds up to 150 mph (241 km/h). While competitors like Joby S4 may offer longer ranges and faster speeds, Archer’s focus is on shorter 20-50-mile (30-80-km) urban commutes, positioning the Midnight as a practical solution for congested city travel.

Archer Midnight Air Taxi Phase 1 Flight Test
The production-ready, full-size Midnight prototype has successfully passed all tests for hover-mode flight.

One of the most exciting developments for Archer is the plan to incorporate human pilots into the testing process within the year. This move towards “for credit” flight testing with the FAA is a significant step in obtaining the type certificate necessary for commercial operation. This certification process is rigorous, reflecting the high safety and performance standards required for these innovative aircraft.

The timeline set by Archer for full certification and service entry is 2025, aligning with the goals of other key players in the industry like Joby Aviation and Beta Technologies. The AAM Reality Index suggests that Archer has a 50% chance of meeting this target, compared to Joby’s 75% and Beta’s 100%. It’s important to note that Beta is taking a unique approach by initially certifying a conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) version of its Alia aircraft, with plans to upgrade to VTOL capabilities later.

As the industry edges closer to realizing the dream of quiet, efficient electric air taxis, questions arise about their potential impact on urban life. With the increasing prevalence of remote work and reduced commuting needs, it remains to be seen how these air taxis will fit into the changing dynamics of city living.

In terms of pricing, specific details about the cost of utilizing services like Archer’s Midnight air taxi have not been disclosed yet. However, the expectation is that these air taxis will offer a relatively affordable alternative to traditional transportation methods, particularly for short to medium-range urban commutes.

In conclusion, Archer’s Midnight air taxi is a significant development in the urban air mobility sector. With its first phase of flight tests completed and strategic partnerships in place, Archer is well on its way to introducing a new era of city travel. While challenges and uncertainties remain, the potential for these electric air taxis to revolutionize urban transportation is undeniable.

Source: Archer Aviation