Air Taxi Manufacturers Archer, Joby Set Sights on Abu Dhabi

Both companies are working with Abu Dhabi government agencies to build ecosystems in the city for their respective aircraft.

Archer Joby Abu Dhabi

Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt (from left), Archer CEO Adam Goldstein, and Aqeel Ahmed Al Zarouni, assistant director general for aviation safety affairs at the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), speak on a panel at DriftX in Abu Dhabi. [Courtesy: Jack Daleo/FLYING]

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates—Two titans in the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi industry are building on their previously announced plans to serve the United Arab Emirates.

At the inaugural DriftX conference in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation, both headquartered in California, signed agreements with Abu Dhabi government agencies to introduce their respective air taxis in the Emirate.

Archer signed a framework agreement with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), which the company says includes hundreds of millions of dollars in investments, to commercialize its flagship Midnight air taxi in the UAE, with a commercial launch as early as next year.

Joby also is eyeing a 2025 launch in the UAE. On Thursday, the company signed a multilateral memorandum of understanding (MOU), with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Municipalities and Transport (DMT), Department of Economic Development (ADDED), and Department of Culture and Tourism. The collaboration would establish Joby air taxi services in the Emirate and elsewhere within the country.

The companies signed their respective agreements at DriftX, a new, two-day mobility conference in Abu Dhabi backed by ADIO and the city’s Sustainable and Autonomous Vehicle Industry (SAVI) cluster. SAVI, of which both Archer and Joby are members, is an initiative that seeks to transform the Emirate’s transportation by air, land, and sea.

Archer’s collaboration further will focus on in-country aircraft manufacturing operations and eVTOL pilot training, which has different requirements than those for most other aircraft. The ADIO, in collaboration with Archer and other partners, will also build vertiports in “critical locations” throughout Abu Dhabi.

“This substantial agreement with Abu Dhabi is a pivotal moment for Archer’s commercialization efforts across the Emirates, as it provides the catalyst to accelerate the launch of our electric air taxi service in the UAE as soon as late 2025,” said Adam Goldstein, founder and CEO of Archer.

ADIO will further help Archer establish an international headquarters and engineering “Center of Excellence” in Abu Dhabi, which were proposed under a previous agreement. Plans for a production facility in the city, which would be aided by automobile manufacturing partner Stellantis, are also in the works.

These facilities and others are expected to attract local Emirati talent through an ADIO-established workforce development plan.

“We are excited to support Archer toward establishing its international headquarters in Abu Dhabi and to develop a comprehensive investment framework that will accelerate its progress towards manufacturing and operating its Midnight aircraft in the UAE,” said Badr Al-Olama, director general of the ADIO.

Archer also has the backing of Mubadala Capital, a UAE state-owned sovereign wealth fund, and operational partnerships with local firms Falcon Aviation and Air Chateau. The latter in November signed an MOU to purchase 100 Midnight air taxis.

Joby, meanwhile, is setting its sights on Abu Dhabi for the first time following a prior agreement with the Emirate of Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA). The company says the arrangement gives it exclusive rights to operate air taxis in the Emirate for six years, beginning with its planned launch in 2025.

The deal caused a stir within the eVTOL industry. But Archer has offered some pushback.

“I do not believe it will impact our operations in Dubai or our ambitions in Dubai,” Goldstein told FLYING in March. “We believe we will be able to operate there, and we will have a strong hub out of Abu Dhabi. We’re glad to see Joby coming to the region and leaning in, because we think it’s a good early market for eVTOL players to start.”

Joby teased the possibility of inter-Emirate routes, such as between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but these would require a sign-off from the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said at DriftX that the company has been collaborating closely with the GCAA for the past six years, working within a framework that builds on FAA standards. But it will need to complete some additional testing and a review process with the regulator.

“Today’s agreement demonstrates the incredible momentum behind the adoption of clean flight across the UAE,” said Bevirt. “We’re looking forward to delivering a fantastic experience for our future customers in Abu Dhabi, and we’re excited to be unlocking the potential for zero-emissions flight between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.”

Goldstein and Bevirt at DriftX spoke about what brought Archer and Joby to Abu Dhabi, citing the Emirate’s existing infrastructure and “unprecedented” (per Bevirt) partnership opportunities as draws. Both CEOs said Emirati officials and communities may be enticed by the value creation aspect of vertiports, claiming that their installation will increase real estate value in surrounding areas.

Both companies emphasized the necessity of partnerships. As Goldstein put it, “we won’t be able to do it alone” when it comes to building the ecosystem surrounding their aircraft.

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Jack is a staff writer covering advanced air mobility, including everything from drones to unmanned aircraft systems to space travel—and a whole lot more. He spent close to two years reporting on drone delivery for FreightWaves, covering the biggest news and developments in the space and connecting with industry executives and experts. Jack is also a basketball aficionado, a frequent traveler and a lover of all things logistics.

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