Midnight (production aircraft)
Archer Aviation Inc.
Palo Alto, California, USA www.archer.com
Archer Aviation is developing multiple models of all-electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft focused on improving mobility in cities, called advanced air mobility (AAM). The company announced its launch on May 21, 2020. With a facility adjacent to the Palo Alto Airport (in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA), Archer is “dedicated to reshaping urban air mobility, focusing on saving time for users in urban areas.” The company is led by co-founders Brett Adcock and Adam Goldstein, serial entrepreneurs sold the marketplace startup Vettery to The Adecco Group for over $100 million (USD). According to the Crunchbase website, the company has raised a total of $1.1 billion (USD) as of January 4, 2023.
Archer Aviation Midnight five-seat eVTOL production aircraft
Archer Aviation Midnight five-seat eVTOL production aircraft carries four passengers and one pilot for up to 60 miles (nearly 100 km) at speeds of up to 150 mph (241 km/h), using today’s battery technologies. The company aims to provide a faster, sustainable, and affordable urban transportation option. Archer says “its unique design will also offer passengers increased safety while producing minimal noise compared to helicopters.”
The aircraft has 12 electric propellers: six tilt-propellers (each with five blades) for forward and VTOL flight, and six fixed propellers for VTOL-only flight (each propeller having two blades). The sleek fuselage is completed with high main wing, a V-tail and tricycle fixed wheeled landing gear.
Initially, Archer plans to focus on dense markets with heavy traffic congestion. In the long term, Archer says it will expand its reach, developing a unique air taxi transportation network. “Our goal is to make our electric aircraft just as safe as commercial airliners,” the website states.
Marc Lore, the serial entrepreneur and CEO of Walmart eCommerce, is the largest investor in the company. With Lore’s backing, Archer says it “has the capital needed to lead the urban air mobility market, while leveraging Lore’s unparalleled entrepreneurial perspective.” Lore has a track record of founding ventures “to solve consumer pain points.” Most recently, he sold challenger e-commerce brand Jet.com to Walmart for $3.3 billion. Before starting Jet.com, he sold Quidsi to Amazon for $550 million in 2010.
Archer has attracted top industry talent, with 40 engineers as of May 2020, including talent from competing eVTOL startups Joby, Airbus Vahana and Wisk. Tom Muniz, previously the VP of Engineering at Wisk, has been named Archer’s VP of Engineering, while Geoff Bower will serve as Chief Engineer, a title he held at Airbus Vahana. Alan Chen, who was the head of Flight Controls at Wisk, is now the guidance, navigation and control (GNC) lead for Archer, while Ben Goldman, previously the Aeroacoustic Lead at Joby, is the Acoustics Lead at Archer.
Archer's Top Goals:
Make the cost of Urban Air Mobility affordable cost for the masses
Reduce maintenance costs
Reduce actual maintenance
Reduce energy costs to operate the aircraft
Increase the productivity of the aircraft through ride sharing
Reduce noise of aircraft to less than the normal noise made in residential areas
Increase safety to be as safe as flying in a commercial airliner. This is done by A) Eliminating critical parts, B) Increase component reliability, C) Designing safe aerial batteries and D) Have autonomous systems
Fly within cities for Urban Air Mobility
When the Vahana program ended in early 2020, most of the subsystem leads also moved over to Archer, including for example, aerodynamics, flight controls, flight test and avionics. The two co-founders stressed that they were designing the aircraft to robust standards, such as “a minimum 60 miles of range in the worst case condition” with today’s battery technology at end of life, in realistic flight conditions, with reserves, etc. The company has flown subscale models and is now working on two-seat (approximately 80%-scale) demonstrator called Maker, which should fly in 2021. At program unveiling in May 2020, the team was completing the preliminary design.
Archer's Maker technology demonstrator made its first flight on Dec. 16, 2021 and successfully hovered and then landed back on the ground. This Archer milestone took place on the eve of the 118th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight on Dec. 17, 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA. Archer's head of certification, Eric Wright, who is a descendant of the Wright family, commemorated the occasion by loading a piece of the Wright Flyer into the Maker aircraft before takeoff.
On Feb. 10, 2021, multiple announcements were made:
The name of their eVTOL 80%-scale technology demonstrator aircraft: Maker
The design of their new eVTOL aircraft
A full-scale version of their eVTOL aircraft is planned to be revealed in 2021, aircraft production is set for 2023 and the company plans their first commercial flights to start in 2024
It will "merge with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Atlas Crest Investment Corp (NYSE: ACIC) in a deal expected to provide $1.1 billion USD in gross proceeds, valuing the startup at $3.8 billion post-money." -Vertical Magazine
"The transaction is expected to close in Q2 2021 and the resulting company will be listed on the the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker ‘ACHR." -Vertical Magazine
United Airlines announced that it has placed a $1 billion USD order for Archer's eVTOL aircraft with an option to purchase $500,000.00 USD more aircraft. United Airlines wants to start with at least 200 aircraft to operate an air taxi service, flying people to and from airports.
Named their participating investors including: United Airlines, Stellantis, Exor (its venture division), Baron Capital Group, the Federated Hermes Kaufmann Funds, Mubadala Capital, Putnam Investments, Access Industries, Ken Moelis and affiliates, and Marc Lore.
The pro forma equity value of the merger is expected to be approximately $3.8 billion (USD) at the $10.00 per share PIPE price.
Archer Direct - This is the sales division for their passenger and cargo aircraft to sell to commercial and military use
Archer UAM (Urban Air Mobility) - Archer's ride sharing program
Archer's Prime Radiant program - Archer has purchased a commercially available cell phone tracking data software allowing the company to understand how people travel within cities around the world. This systems simulation software is what Archer calls Prime Radiant. This software helps the company to know the best aircraft range and passenger payload, airspace management, price rates, weather knowledge, location of vertiports, the market size and profitability of each city. In summary, this software helps optimize the entire company's activities from manufacturing to air taxi service.
On Feb. 13, 2021, Archer announced it will start air taxi service in Los Angeles (California, USA) by 2024 and Los Angeles is also one of United Airlines major hubs. Archer in their announcement, reminds people they expect their eVTOL aircraft "to travel distances of up to 60 miles at 150 mph using technology available today, transforming how people approach everyday life, work and adventure, while benefiting the environment and working towards a future zero-emissions world."
On August 10, 2022, Archer announced the name of their production aircraft, the Midnight. On the same day, it was announced that United Airlines paid a $10 million (USD) deposit to Archer Aviation for 100 Midnight air taxi eVTOL aircraft. Remembering back to Feb. 10, 2021, United Airlines announced plans to buy up to 200 Midnight eVTOL air taxis from Archer which would be worth $1 billion (USD). United Airlines plans to use the eVTOL passenger aircraft on high-volume routes between airports and city centers in the USA.
On November 16, 2022, Archer hosted an open house to showcase their "Maker" two-seat (uncrewed) eVTOL flight demonstrator, their "Maker 2" back-up aircraft and a mock-up of their "Midnight" five seat production aircraft. The company announced they are working to certify the Midnight with the US Federal Aviation Administration in late 2024 and plans to start air taxi service in 2025.
On June 13, 2023, Archer Aviation appointed Billy Nolen, former acting administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration (from April 1, 2022 to June 2023) to its Chief Safety Officer. Nolen is a pilot and has flown several different types of helicopters and several large commercial jet airliners. Before Nolen was the FAA's acting administrator he was the associate administrator of aviation safety for the FAA. While acting administrator of the FAA Nolen led certification reform and new safety management systems for US airports.
With over 30+ years of experience in flight safety, regulatory affairs and flight operations, Nolen will be responsible for Archer Aviation's safety management system (SMS) and also building public trust for eVTOL passenger aircraft air taxi service. Nolen is expected to use massive quantities of data, using the latest technology, to continuously improve the safety of Archer Aviation's flight operations.
June 19-24, 2023 Paris Air Show announcements
In Archer Aviation participated in the 54th edition of the Paris Air Show held June 19-25, 2023 (France) in the Air Mobility event in Hall 5 at the Le Bourget Airport. Archer Aviation (Headquartered in the USA.) and Stellantis (Headquartered in The Netherlands.) announced their manufacturing partnership at the 2023 Paris Air Show of the world’s first high-volume scalable eVTOL aircraft manufacturing facility located Covington, Georgia, USA. At the time of the announcement, the building of a eVTOL manufacturing plant was well underway. Stellantis also increased shareholding through a series of purchases of Archer stock. Initial manufacturing numbers are estimated at producing up to 650 aircraft per year and then ramping up to about 2,000-2,300 aircraft per year. The company's goal is to manufacture 6,000 eVTOL passenger aircraft by 2030.
On July 4, 2023, Archer Aviation announced it had hosted over 70 representatives from the from the Federal AAM (advance air mobility) Interagency Working Group, DOT (Department of Transportation), the White House, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, NASA (National Aeronautics Space Administration), the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), the DOD (Department of Defense), the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) and other governmental agencies. The attendees visited with over 20 Archer executives, watched flight test, toured the Midnight eVTOL aircraft and learned more about the company's approach to aircraft design, safety and certification.
On July 27, 2023, the U.S. Department of Defense AFWERX awarded Archer Aviation a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract that has a ceiling of $110 million (USD) for the Midnight eVTOL passenger aircraft. It should be noted that Archer Aviation might receive less than $100 million but the final figure the company will receive from the US military is unknown as of July 2023. (The breakdown of AFWERX is "AF" for the U.S. Air Force and "WERX" represents work project.)
On August 11, 2023:
Archer Aviation secured $215 million USD in investments from Stellantis, Boeing, United airlines and Ark Investment Management
The Midnight Aircraft received a FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate, meaning flight testing can commence
Archer Aviation predicts the Midnight eVTOL aircraft will be the first eVTOL aircraft delivered to the U.S. Department of Defense
The legal conflict between Archer Aviation and Wisk is over. In 2021, Wisk sued Archer Aviation. In 2022, Archer Aviation countersued Wisk. Now Archer, Wisk and Boeing have made plans to collaborate on autonomous technology.
Archer Aviation's stock rose 19% (to about $6.95 USD) on August 11, 2023 but fell back down by the end of the day (to about $5.77 USD at 4:00 p.m. EDT)
Archer Aviation anticipates its Midnight eVTOL passenger air taxi aircraft to be certified by the FAA by the end of 2024 and expects commercial operations to begin in 2025..
Aircraft type: eVTOL aircraft
Piloting: Will have 1 pilot in the beginning and will have autonomous capability in the future
Capacity: 1 pilot, 4 passengers
Cruise speed: 150 mph (241 km/h)
Range: 20-50 miles (32-80 km)
Cruise altitude: 2,000 feet (610 meters)
Maximum payload: 1,000+ lb (456+ kg)
Maximum takeoff weight: 7,000 lb (3,175 kg)
Propellers: 12 propellers (Each tilt-propeller has 5 blades. Each VTOL-only propeller has 2 blades)
Electric motors: 12 electric motors
Power source: 6 independent battery packs
Noise level during forward flight: 45 dba
Windows: Panoramic windows for spectacular views
Wing: High wing
Tail: V-tail with a short downward facing vertical stabilizer
Landing gear: Fixed tricycle wheeled landing gear
Safety features: Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), provides safety through redundancy for its passengers and/or cargo. DEP means having multiple propellers and motors on the aircraft so if one or more motors or propellers fail, the other working motors and propellers can safely land the aircraft. In addition, the company is increasing the safety of their aircraft by eliminating critical parts, increasing component reliability and designing safe aerial batteries. The company has no single critical points of failure.
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