Honeywell Delivers for Archer Aviation
Close to Midnight: Honeywell Delivers for Archer Aviation
These are busy times at Archer Aviation as Chief Engineer Geoff Bower and the whole engineering team gears up for a midyear critical design review on Midnight, Archer’s breakthrough electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that promises to change the way commuters get around in big metro areas.
“We’ve taken a very pragmatic design approach with Midnight,” Bower said. “Good design starts with understanding the mission requirements such as payload, range and speed. Once you know what the aircraft has to accomplish you can then design an aircraft configured to meet those requirements.”
“For a world-class urban air mobility (UAM) aircraft like Midnight, the goal is to provide passengers a safe, comfortable and affordable way to travel quickly over short distances in crowded cities,” he continued.
Imagine an air taxi that can take you from midtown Manhattan to Newark Liberty International Airport – which takes up to an hour in normal traffic – in less than 10 minutes. Archer already has. In fact, the company’s first customer, United Airlines, plans to start using Midnight to fly that exact route as early as 2025.
“This is an exciting time for everyone at Archer,” Bower said. “We’re not just developing an amazing aircraft, we’re inventing a game-changing transportation method that could have as great an impact on commuting behaviors as the automobile did at the beginning of the last century.”
Archer Aims to Shake Up UAM Landscape
Audible gasps accompanied the formal unveiling of Midnight at Palo Alto Airport across the street from Archer’s development facility in November. But the aircraft’s sleek design and that new-plane smell are just the beginning of Midnight’s story.
Photo credit: Vertical Flight Society
“Midnight is an all-electric aircraft designed specifically to carry a pilot and up to four passengers on short flights,” Bower said. “Its maximum range will be about 100 miles, but we believe back-to-back flights of 20 miles or so, with battery charging time of about 12 minutes in between, are its sweet spot.”
With a cruising speed of up to 150 miles per hour, Midnight can turn hour-long trips into minutes-long hops and let busy commuters avoid all the hassles of traffic congestion in big cities. Archer foresees a day when all that safety, comfort and convenience will be available at a price point competitive with a premium rideshare service.
Photo credit: Archer
Advanced UAM vehicles will deliver lots of other benefits as they become a common means of transportation in the years ahead. For starters they’re quieter and cleaner than helicopters and most ground vehicles powered by internal combustion engines, because UAM aircraft will use batteries and electric motors.
Midnight’s configuration features a 12-tilt-6 design with six independent battery packs powering 12 electric motors that turn six tilting propellers and six fixed lift propellers.
Honeywell Actuators Help Give Midnight Its Moves
Advanced actuation technology from Honeywell is a critical part of Midnight’s central nervous system. Honeywell actuators convert electricity to mechanical force and make things move. On Midnight, they take commands from the fly-by-wire flight control computer to adjust the position of the tilt motors and control surfaces (four flaperons on the wings and six ruddervators on the V-tail) during every phase of flight.
“Honeywell actuators are responsible for a big part of the control of the aircraft,” said Bower. “The control-surfaces are very similar to those on a conventional aircraft. The load the propellers put on the tilt actuators can vary quite a bit depending on phase of flight, so they need to be extremely robust and reliable. Honeywell’s experience was very valuable in helping us meet the challenge.”
Helping customers solve actuation problems is nothing new for Honeywell. The company has more than 60 years of actuation experience. Today’s actuators, like those developed especially for Midnight, are smaller, lighter, more reliable and more cost-effective than ever.
Archer also selected Honeywell’s Micro Vapor Cycle System (VCS) to provide year-round comfort inside Midnight’s roomy cabin. If they’re reminded of riding in a luxury automobile, that’s okay with Bower.
“We’ve taken a number of cues from the auto industry when it comes to designing an aircraft that puts passengers first,” he said. “Our goal is to give people a safe, convenient and comfortable commuting experience... and we might just reinvent the industry.”
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