The electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle market is beginning to crystalize as airlines and operators are choosing which startups to back in the race. One of the most exciting entries is Archer Aviation. The California-based urban air mobility startup recently received a $10 million downpayment from United Airlines for 100 of its forthcoming eVTOL. It will be called Midnight – and the first few teaser details have just been released.
Maker, meet Midnight
You would be forgiven for being a little confused, as, if you have been following the eVTOL market, you have most likely already seen an Archer Aviation eVTOL called Maker take flight. However, Maker is the company’s full-scale demonstrator aircraft, unveiled in June 2021. It is a prototype used for flight testing and engineering and design analyses. Meanwhile, it will not be put forth for certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The baton will instead be handed over to Midnight.
Midnight will be able to cover distances of 100 miles. It will also complete Archer’s target missions of successive back-to-back flights in the 20-mile range with a charging time in between of approximately ten minu
tes. Furthermore, it will have a payload of over 1,000 pounds and carry four passengers plus a pilot.
kipping the queues
While eVTOLs will be used in regional transportation, such as connecting rural Norway to urban centers, Archer is looking specifically at the use for Midnight making short hops across urban areas where congested traffic would typically make a journey last 60 to 90 minutes. For instance, getting from Manhattan to Newark Airport or Pasadena to LAX could be a trip of five to ten minutes and save on both hassle and emissions.
Archer is looking to have its Midnight certified with the FAA by the end of 2024. That means we could see Archer’s eVTOLs in commercial service in urban/airport hubs sometime in 2025. And United Airlines has said it will not be more expensive than what a comparative Uber Black service would cost for a ride to the airport.
One of the exciting things about eVTOLs is that they require little ground infrastructure as they take off and land vertically. Most likely, vertiports will initially be integrated into existing airport and non-airport infrastructure, such as the top of parking buildings. To start with, pilots will need to be commercially certified, but as automation and navigation progress along with certification, this may change.