Electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft manufacturer Archer Aviation looks like it may have locked down its third commercial customer.
On Thursday at the Dubai Airshow in the United Arab Emirates, Archer signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Emirati private heliport operator Air Chateau International for the planned purchase of 100 Midnight electric air taxis, which the latter plans to own and operate regionwide. Archer estimated the value of the deal at around $500 million.
The MOU calls for Air Chateau to make an initial nonrefundable, predelivery payment of $1 million before year’s end, while an additional $4 million is “contemplated to be paid following signing,” Archer said. The partners in the coming months will work to finalize a definitive purchase agreement.
Air Chateau’s last-mile helicopter service—which offers corporate, tourism, and bespoke flights between airports, cities, and local attractions—is targeted at “ultra-high net worth individuals.” The company’s website does not specify pricing. But it’s safe to say Midnight will mostly ferry around wealthy clients, at least through this partnership.
“We stand at the precipice of realizing our vision for the future of urban air mobility [UAM] with eVTOLs in Dubai and across the UAE,” said Samir Mohamed, chairman and founder of Air Chateau. “We are very grateful for having the opportunity to pave the way for the future of Air Mobility in Dubai with Archer.”
Archer’s flagship Midnight—a four-passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) design—should fit neatly into Air Chateau’s operations, which are largely based out of heliports. The air taxi can fly at up to 130 knots, in line with the typical cruise speed of a helicopter.
But it comes with the added benefit of a low noise footprint—Archer has claimed Midnight is 1,000 times quieter than a helicopter while remaining cost-competitive with ground-based rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft. The vision is for it to ferry passengers on back-to-back, 10- to 20-minute flights in urban hubs, charging for as little as 12 minutes between trips.
Should the deal move forward, Air Chateau would become the third commercial customer—in addition to the U.S. Air Force, which ordered up to six units as part of a $142 million contract agreed in July—to sign prepurchase agreements for Midnight aircraft.
The first, and largest, is United Airlines and its billion-dollar provisional deal for up to 200 air taxis, with the option to buy another $500 million worth of aircraft. Last year, the airline placed a $10 million prepayment for half of them.
Earlier this month, Archer planned the sale of 200 more aircraft to a second customer, travel conglomerate InterGlobe. The Indian firm expects to fly them on short-hop air taxi flights nationwide, starting with the cities of Mumbai and Bengaluru and the Delhi capital region, in 2026.
Now, Archer is hoping to achieve a similar operation in the UAE.
“It was an honor hosting Air Chateau’s team at the Dubai Airshow 2023, during which they were able to touch, see and feel our aircraft as it headlined the show,” said Adam Goldstein, founder and CEO of Archer. “Their recognition that our Midnight aircraft meets what the customer demands in the UAE market and desire to secure the purchase of up to 100 Midnight aircraft is another exciting validation of our efforts to bring to market an aircraft that will revolutionize how people move in and around cities.”
Archer’s latest partnership comes exactly one month after it announced plans to launch electric air taxi services across the UAE in 2026, beginning with Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO).
The manufacturer said Thursday’s agreement is meant to strengthen those plans, adding that it and Air Chateau will explore infrastructure investments—such as for vertiports or electric aircraft chargers—to prepare those cities for (vertical) takeoff.
Through its partnership with the ADIO, Archer plans to build an engineering “Center of Excellence” in Abu Dhabi’s Sustainable and Autonomous Vehicle Industry (SAVI) cluster, which it says will help make advanced air mobility (AAM) services a reality in the UAE and Middle East. Joby Aviation, one of Archer’s key competitors in the U.S., is also a participant in SAVI.
The Midnight manufacturer also intends to work with the city’s manufacturers and MRO providers to lead eVTOL aircraft production in the region. The firm is collaborating with Stellantis—with which it signed an exclusive manufacturing partnership in January—and local partners to build both the engineering hub and a manufacturing plant.
Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares last month said the automaker hopes Archer’s U.S. manufacturing plant in Covington, Georgia—which it is helping to build—can serve as a “blueprint” for facilities internationally, starting with the Middle East.
Unlike Joby, Archer does not plan to operate Midnight air taxi routes itself, but it signed an agreement with Abu Dhabi’s Falcon Aviation to facilitate its services in the UAE. United’s regional partner airline, Mesa Air, will fill that role in the U.S.