Archer Midnight eVTOL Completes First Phase Of Testing

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Archer Aviation announced yesterday (Jan. 31) it has completed Phase 1 testing on its Midnight electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. The phase took three months to accomplish, “significantly” less than the time it took Archer to reach this point with its full-scale prototype Maker model.

Archer said it has upgraded the Midnight’s battery system to incorporate among the first high-voltage packs from the company’s assembly line in San Jose, California.

Phase 2 testing involves incrementally increasing speed runs until achieving wing-borne flight and ultimately the capability to transition to both vertical and wing-borne modes in a single flight. Phase 3 involves simulated commercial routes “to demonstrate the aircraft’s operational readiness,” according to Archer.

Archer founder and CEO Adam Goldstein said, “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.”

Archer’s mission goals for its piloted four-passenger Midnight aircraft include replacing 60- to 90-minute automobile commutes with 10- to 20-minute electric air taxi flights with minimal charge time between flights. The flights are planned to be safe, sustainable, low-noise and cost-competitive with ground transportation, the company said.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

23 COMMENTS

  1. You know whenever a fossil-fuel charged, electric Rube Goldberg Flying Flivver is running low on investor (sucker) cash when they throw in the “sustainable” buzz word, based on the myth of limited resources. Clearly the designers have never heard of the word “entropy”. This thing will generate plenty of it.

    • Of course it was going to fly; no doubt. The problem is when it meets the real world (certification, cost, payload, range, noise, weather). Honestly, there is no way in hell that it will be cost-competitive with ground transportation.

    • “Sustainable” is such an overexposed adjective that I find it difficult to believe that an investor would even notice it being listed as a claim – not unlike a company noting that they are an EOE in their Help Wanted ads.

  2. This sounds like the perfect mission profile for an electric aircraft. The economics of operating piston or turbine aircraft repeatedly on very short flights aren’t good. If there is a niche for electric aircraft, this would be it.

  3. Hi, Kent! It may just be too early in the morning for me (maybe I need a second cup of coffee!), but I can’t figure out why you seem to be critical of the fact that the Archer E-VTOL might be recharged by electricity produced from the burning of hydrocarbons. It seems like you’re the kind of guy who doesn’t think that burning hydrocarbons is a bad thing, which is what leads to my confusion! Perhaps you could clarify why burning hydrocarbons to recharge a battery is a bad thing, but burning hydrocarbons to power a combustion engine is good?

    You may not be aware of this, but there are other ways to produce electricity to recharge batteries besides burning hydrocarbons, including solar power, wind power, hydroelectric power and nuclear power! I’m sure I’ve forgotten some! In fact, in the US, around 40% of electricity is generated by sources other than coal, natural gas, or petroleum! I found that fact to be pretty interesting!

    Another great thing about the US is that we have the opportunity to try all sorts of ideas out and see which ones are good and which ones are not so good! I imagine all of the people trying to build E-VTOLS think they’re a good idea, but maybe they’re not. The great thing is, though, that their efforts help to advance the general state of technology, and even if their ideas aren’t great, they may lead to other great ideas!

    Have a great day!

    • Jon, solar power and wind power are “fickle”; long still nights mean zero power generation no matter how many panels and turbines there are. That means that coal/gas/oil does not go away because you still need 100% power 24/7. That means we need MORE oil/gas fired plants for new electric vehicles. Q.E.D.

      Hydroelectric power and nuclear power are great, but building NEW reservoirs and NEW nuclear plants for this added demand is not happening.

      • Hi, Arthur! Thanks for responding to my comment! I think, though, that you may have misunderstood (or I may have miscommunicated) what I was trying to say. I don’t think I offered any comment on the suitability of any power generation source over another – I was only trying to inform Kent that electric power comes from many sources, not just hydrocarbon combustion. In his comment, it seemed to me like he thought that E-VTOL batteries would be solely charged by electricity generated by hydrocarbon combustion, and I wanted him to be aware that that might not in fact be the case! I wouldn’t want him to keep using a false premise for his comments!

        In any case, keeping this chain of comments related to aviation innovation and the story at hand, it may in fact be the case that E-VTOLS will not be the transportation solution that the industry hopes that they will be. If that’s the case, they’ll be in good company with all of the other entrepreneurs whose ideas just didn’t pan out, like those involved with VLJs or roadable aircraft. But no idea should be considered forever debunked, I think. Instead, maybe we can think of them as ideas that just haven’t worked yet!

        Have a great day!

          • Hi, Rush! Thanks for your response to my comment. It may be the case that Kent believes the craft will has an hybrid drive, but Archer describes the Midnight as “all-electric”, not hybrid. Yet another chance for Kent to correct his understanding, I guess!

            Have a great day!

        • Point is that at least 12 hours a day are powered primarily by oil/gas. No way around that. Solar and wind will never meet the demand of expanding EV’s, primarily because Wind/Solar is already maxed out in many areas. Covering the land with solar panels is it’s own ecological disaster.

          • Hi Arthur! Thanks again for staying engaged in this discussion! I’m afraid that I’m not an expert in this area, but I can do a little bit of research and math, and here’s what I’ve found:

            One estimate by power utility AECOM suggests that a vertiport (an E-VTOL airport) could consume 5MW of power, though it didn’t say over what time frame; it did say that was the power draw equivalent of 6,000 homes – that’s quite a lot! If we assume that vertiports are primarily located in the US’s major cities and metroplexes (say those with populations over 1 million) and there are 10 vertiports per each area, that suggests about 100 vertiports and consequently 500MW of power consumption spread across the country, if my math is right (please check!).

            The Department of Energy says that the US had 1.2 million MW of generation capacity in 2021, so although 500MW is a lot, it represents less than a tenth of a percent of current capacity!

            What I do know is that another exciting technology that is being developed along with solar and wind power is grid-scale storage, which is effectively large batteries attached to the power grid to deliver power when generation isn’t available. Maybe as those are deployed in more widespread use, they’ll help to meet the demand of these E-VTOLS, if they prove to be successful!

            Have a great day!

  4. The ‘mission goals’ seem to be a bit unclear to me.
    Where will they fly from and to ? Will it fly from a smaller, GA airport to a large class C or B airports, and back ? If so then there will be a need to greatly expand the car parking at the GA airports….at the expense of the city/county that operates the airport.
    So, folks will drive to the small airport which can be 20-50 miles from their home or business, park at the GA airport and then pay to fly the added 50+ miles to the larger airport.

    It seems to me that improving the roads to the major airports would be less costly overall.
    Maybe shuttles from remote parking to go the last 5 – 10 miles ?

    • Browse back articles on Avweb for electric flight. The general plan for the industry is to set up separate stations, similar to ground transit park and ride facilities, where the eVTOL will land on the roof of the terminal building. You park in their lot and take the elevator to the roof. These terminals will be located near venues like large shopping centers or office plazas and not GA airports. Locating the terminals near commercial real estate should help minimize the noise issue associated with residential property. At least that is the theory.

      • Terminals will need people, security, scales for weighing going on board, a room with seats out of the weather, charging stations and maybe spare batteries. That does not include the cost of all the brand new aircraft. As said above, no way in hell that that can compete cost wise with a taxi, bus, or Uber.

        • I agree that it would be hard to compete cost-wise. Actually I see the market for an eVTOL to be in foreign, mostly third-world countries, where the road systems are poor and overcrowded. They would cater to the wealthy people who don’t like mixing with the rabble and can afford to pay for the safety and convenience of flying above it all. Noise levels and neighborhood impacts are less of an issue than here or in Europe.

          • Any non-airport flight operation will have the be FAA approved. Aircraft cannot take off and land anywhere they want [ ie off airport landings ].
            Without TSA on site, the aircraft will have to land outside the secured area….like the roof of the parking garage.
            So, it seems like a huge effort to save a bit of auto fuel and the assumed travel time !!!

          • JimH: Very few flight operations “in foreign, mostly third-world countries” would be concerned with FAA approval.

  5. Has anyone seen noise impact analyses of any eVTOL aircraft? If so, please let me know where and how to find it. The manufacturer claims for “quiet” operations need to be confirmed. The only one I have seen was for an eVTOL at 1000′ AGL and compared to a single-engine piston aircraft at the same altitude. I have asked Joby for data, but have had no response. Noise levels need to be taken between one n.m. and the touchdown zone if they are to be relevant and establish just how “quiet” these aircraft actually are. The aircraft should be flown in a stabilized approach with a full payload to be meaningful. I expect them to be quiet, but if they are comparable or just a little bit less noisy than most small aircraft, they will lose the battle from the public most exposed to such flights.

    • I have seen three demos at OSH over the past several years. They were extremely quiet. I know that doesn’t answer your technical question… but very impressive in person.

    • One mosquito is “relatively” quiet. A swarm of mosquitos, not so much. For the eVTOL business case to work, swarms of these vehicles will be required. Suddenly, not so quiet. Add to that infrastructure costs for electric or hydrogen, new parking or facility upgrades of existing facilities, new ground traffic pattern accommodations, local zoning & ordinances regarding over flight, potential landing and other fees, flying in an 800-1200 foot AGL corridor as is being discussed, and many other issues, the eVTOL industry has an uphill battle. Cool technology! I hope at least the technology developed survives for adoption in areas where there is more favorable business & social acceptance.

      • Your reference to mosquito “noise” is a good point. Often the sound level of a noise is not as important as the perception of the sound or its source. The sound of a mosquito buzzing near your ear is irritating because we humans associate it with being bitten by the insect. The purring of a kitten near your ear is about the same sound level, but we usually find that pleasant. As pilots, we normally do not object to the sound of an airplane overhead because we associate that sound with the pleasant experience of flight. However, most ground “muggles” dislike it because, to them, its just another irritant. Most people dislike the hissing buzz of a quadcopter, not because of its sound level, but perhaps because it reminds them of your mosquito swarm. My point is that, at a distance of more than a couple hundred feet, the sound of an eVTOL is probably the same or less than a regular airplane in flight, but its perception to the listener is what is objectionable.

  6. >>Phase 2 testing involves incrementally increasing speed runs until achieving wing-borne flight and ultimately the capability to transition to both vertical and wing-borne modes in a single flight.

    I’m trying to make sense of this statement. I presume this thing only takes off vertically, yes? So they are incrementally increasing flight speeds, and that makes sense to me. At some point in the process of testing to higher speeds, you end up in wing-borne flight. So far so good.

    The last part of the statement is what has me puzzled. If you get to the point where you have achieved wing-borne flight, what else must you do to prove “ultimately the capability to transition”? Doesn’t the proof of transitioning occur before (or at least with) the first achievement of wing-borne flight?

    The only way this makes sense to me is if they do vertical flights, followed by a purely wing-borne flight that begins with a conventional takeoff roll. But this wing requires high speeds, and the landing gear doesn’t seem suited to a prolonged rolling takeoff. The landing gear looks like it’s optimized for vertical operations.

    To me, it seems safer to do vertical flights with increasing speeds and then transitions with the ultimate goal of demonstrating wing-borne flight. (Or maybe the ultimate goal is the transition back to vertical flight? But that would happen on the same flight as the first transition to wing-borne.)

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