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Archer is targeting FAA certification by the end of 2024, and its first air taxi flights in 2025. With its Maker prototype logging successful test flights, the company has now unveiled Midnight, the four-passenger aircraft it'll push toward production.

It's a sleek and curious-looking beast, sporting the same propulsion layout as the Maker. That's 12 rotors, mounted on propulsion pods distributed along its wide wings. The rear six are two-bladers, pointing upwards, and they lock into a minimum-drag configuration in horizontal flight. The front six rock five blades, and are capable of fully tilting forward for cruise flight.

The cabin seats four passengers, plus a pilot. It's designed to be super-easy to get in and out of, and each seat has semi-dividers separating it from neighboring seats, with little panels displaying your name and destination. Archer has sacrificed some weight for passenger experience; the windows are huge and panoramic, and designed to give you the best possible view at 2,000 ft (610 m) where this machine will cruise.

Design-wise, it's super-sleek and murdered-out in black. The front end has a bit of a sperm whale thing going on, thanks to an integrated wheel cover and downward-tilted snout. Archer's visual signatures will be a single, striking vertical line down the nose, as well as the large V-tail at the back.

It's capable of top speeds up to 150 mph (241 km/h), and can fly as far as 100 miles (160 km) on a charge, although Archer is very much positioning this machine as a cross-town proposition. It's optimized to handle two back-to-back 20-mile (32-km) trips per 10 minutes on a fast charger, and the company claims it's built to last at least 3,000 flight cycles, after which presumably the battery packs might need to be refreshed.

As with all eVTOL companies, Archer is promising it'll be unobtrusive in urban operations, 100 times quieter than a helicopter. It also promises to be a heap cheaper, coming in at around the price of an Uber-style service per mile, and this super-accessible pricing is key to the eVTOL sector's rapid expansion plans. And expansion will indeed be rapid; Archer is building an initial factory in Georgia designed to pump out up to 650 aircraft a year. All going according to plan, that'll soon be expanded to produce 2,300 a year.

Archer says it's targeting 2025 for its first customer flights, assuming all goes well with FAA type certification in 2024. The company has already announced its first passenger route: from the Downtown Manhattan heliport on Pier 6 above Battery Park across to the Newark Liberty International Airport. It's about 6 miles (10 km) as the Midnight flies, as opposed to 14 miles (22.5 km) on the road, and Archer will get you there in 10 minutes, where a car will take anywhere from 25 minutes to well over an hour depending on the traffic. Other routes will be announced soon.

At this stage, there seems to be very little doubt that the aircraft are capable of doing what they say on the tin. The North American eVTOL industry looks set to live or die based upon the FAA certification process, the companies' abilities to prove these new machines are every bit as safe as airliners, and their investors' ability to ride out any potentially long and expensive delays that might push back start dates. The potential here is clear, there's plenty of cash behind Archer and its noteworthy competitors, and lots of people want this to happen.

Source: Archer