Archer's first eVTOL air taxi is ready for in-house testing

Midnight is slated to begin the FAA certification process in early 2024.
Jijo Malayil
Archer’s Midnight aircraft
Archer’s Midnight aircraft

Archer Aviation  

The first working model of Archer Aviation's eVTOL air taxi, whose design was released last November, is now ready. The California-based company plans to start testing in the upcoming months and has already initiated the process of developing a conforming prototype. 

“All major aerostructures—that, is the wing, tail, fuselage, etc.—have been built and mated together. Our team has installed a significant portion of the wiring, electronics, actuators, and other systems, and we are currently targeting to begin our flight test campaign with this aircraft in mid-2023," said Adam Goldstein, founder and CEO, while addressing investors during a quarterly earnings call. 

Named Midnight, the all-electric vehicle is a pilot-plus-four-passenger eVTOL aircraft with a payload capacity of over 1,000 pounds (453 kg) and optimized for back-to-back short-distance trips of around 20 miles, with a rapid charging time of approximately 10 minutes in-between. 

The firm is looking to transform inter-city travel, replacing an hour car rides in traffic with 10-20 minute electric air taxi flights that are "safe, sustainable, low noise and cost competitive with ground transportation," said a blog post

FAA certification process to begin in 2024

Archer Aviation confirmed that its new Mignight aircraft had been transferred to a flight test facility near Salinas Municipal Airport, California. Archer plans to utilize the model for in-house testing that will help the firm to optimize its model for the incoming FAA certification testing process, which is slated to begin in early 2024, roughly a year before it intends to start its commercial operations. 

The firm has also initiated works for six additional Midnight "FAA conforming" models at its San Jose, California manufacturing infrastructure. The first one is scheduled to roll out by the end of 2023. Archer plans to use these models for its first manned tests in early 2024; until then, all its test runs will be remotely piloted. 

The company claims that the Midnight aircraft used for initial flight test runs will be almost identical to the incoming models being readied for FAA certification. “The geometry is very similar, the aero performance is very similar, powertrain components—it's all essentially the same as it will be on the certified aircraft," said Tom Muniz, the company's chief operating officer. The firm plans to utilize the test flight data to optimize its operations before going through with the FAA certification process. 

A large order book, flush with capital

Archer Aviation had an agreement with United Airlines to supply 200 eVTOL aircraft to begin commercial operation in 2025. The latter also has the option to extend the purchase order by another 100 vehicles and has already put in a $10 million deposit with the former.

Furthermore, the firm has also partnered with automaker Stellantis, which will help manufacture the eVTOL. Funding to the tune of $150 million is also part of the deal, which will help the aircraft maker to fasten its production process.

In its quarterly earnings call, the firm said it maintains a strong liquidity position, with "cash equivalents and short-term investments of $450M as of March 31, coupled with its previously announced strategic funding of up to $150M from Stellantis."