Flying taxis, which we are used to seeing in science fiction movies, are set to become a reality soon, according to US-based operator Archer Aviation.
Its flagship aircraft – Midnight – a four-passenger-one-pilot electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, is expected to hit the markets in a little over a year’s time in the US, followed by the UAE and India in 2026, the company told Al Arabiya English on the sidelines of the just-concluded Dubai Airshow.
Test flights for Midnight are already underway in California and regulatory approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected by 2025.
Archer signed a preliminary agreement at the Dubai Airshow with Air Chateau, a Dubai-based private aviation operator, to purchase up to 100 Midnights worth $500 million, as part of a plan to launch air taxi services in the UAE.
The deal should result in the introduction of air taxis in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and the wider Middle East by 2026, Archer said, which is also backed by the Emirati sovereign wealth fund Mubadala.
Archer claims Midnight is designed to perform successive flights and requires minimal charging, which takes just six to seven minutes.
“We think of it as an urban air taxi. It can travel up to 100 miles at 150 miles per hour,” says the company’s Chief Safety Officer Billy Nolen.
The four-passenger-one-pilot configuration is based on Archer’s business model of ride-share bookings, costing an estimated $4-5 per mile, which will be reduced gradually over the following years, Nolen said.
“When we thought about what makes sense in terms of affordability, a pilot plus four seats make perfect business sense,” he added.
Initial flying taxi routes in the UAE will connect Dubai airport to the Palm development and Abu Dhabi airport to the city center Corniche, with an additional air corridor between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Nolen revealed to Al Arabiya English.
Nolen also emphasized the Midnight aircraft’s environmentally friendly and zero-emission characteristics as a solution to urban mobility challenges.
“Midnight has a noise signature nearly a hundred times less than a conventional helicopter. So, we have got something that is also very neighbor-friendly,” Nolen added.