American-made electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft are coming to the Middle East.
San Jose, California-based eVTOL manufacturer Archer Aviation on Monday announced its plan to initiate electric air taxi services across the United Arab Emirates, which is expected to be the company’s first international launch market. Partnering with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), Archer plans to launch nationwide in 2026.
The agreement was finalized during a signing ceremony this week, where ADIO and regional aviation leaders entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support Archer’s UAE launch. ADIO will provide incentives for the firm to build its first international headquarters and establish manufacturing capabilities in Abu Dhabi.
Archer is partially backed by Mubadala Capital, the asset management subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Co.
“Archer plans to partner closely with ADIO and the [UAE’s] Department of Economic Development to bring manufacturing and operations for our air taxis to the region,” said Archer CEO Adam Goldstein. “Together, we are positioned to be a driving force in making all-electric air taxis a reality in the skies of the UAE and beyond in the coming years.”
The ADIO partnership calls for Archer to build an engineering “Center of Excellence,” which will focus on the development and implementation of advanced air mobility (AAM) technology to support the UAE’s growing AAM industry. The firm will work with Stellantis—with which it signed an exclusive manufacturing partnership in January—and local partners to support its construction, as well as that of its manufacturing plant.
“We are excited to be working with Archer to begin establishing a high-volume manufacturing facility for the Midnight aircraft in the United States over the last couple of years,” said Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares. “We hope this first production site will be a blueprint for future Archer manufacturing facilities as it expands operations to serve new regions, starting with the Middle East, where we see extraordinary potential for urban air mobility.”
The facilities will be located within the UAE’s Smart and Autonomous Vehicle Industry (SAVI) cluster. Designed to speed the development of new vehicles across air, land, and sea, SAVI is backed by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and chairman of the city’s executive council. The urban hub launched last week and is centered in Masdar City, an urban community within the nation’s capital.
In a separate announcement, ADIO on Sunday revealed that Santa Cruz, California-based Joby Aviation—Archer’s main U.S. rival—will also participate in SAVI. Like Archer, it plans to establish a significant footprint in the region.
Archer also agreed to collaborate with local eVTOL manufacturers and maintenance and repair organization (MRO) providers to spearhead the country’s production and support SAVI’s expansion. In exchange, it will receive support from passenger helicopter operator Falcon Aviation, which agreed to operate its flagship Midnight air taxi across Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
It signed another MOU with Global Aerospace Logistics and the Advanced Military Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul Center (GAL-AMMROC) to add eVTOL MRO services to the region.
Next month, Archer will showcase Midnight in the Middle East for the first time at the Dubai Airshow. The following week, the eVTOL will make an appearance at the Conference on Aviation and Alternative Fuel (CAAF), hosted by ICAO and the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).
Archer in a press release said it is in discussions with “numerous other industry participants” and plans to announce more MOUs as Midnight tours the UAE.
“We are thrilled to work with Archer to host their first international operations in Abu Dhabi,” said Badr Al-Olama, acting director general of ADIO. “Bringing electric aviation to the UAE will help unlock congestion with zero emissions and, in turn, bring millions in foreign direct investment and thousands of jobs to the region over the next decade.”
Recently, GCAA leaders—including director general Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi—visited Archer’s California headquarters to inspect Midnight and get an update on its FAA certification progress. Al Suwaidi said the regulator’s goal is to approve Midnight flights in the UAE as soon as the aircraft is type certified in the U.S.
The five-seat eVTOL, designed for four passengers and a pilot, features a pair of fixed wings and 12 propellers—a half dozen on each wing, with the front propellers tilting forward during cruise—powered by lithium-ion batteries. The propulsion system gives it a range of about 52 sm (45 nm) at a cruise speed of 130 knots.
Midnight is meant to replace hour to hour-and-a-half commutes by car with estimated 10- to 20-minute flights. Designed for rapid, back-to-back short hops with as little as 10 minutes of charge time in between, Archer claims it will be cost-competitive with rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.
In the U.S., the company hopes to launch air taxi routes in 2025, beginning with Chicago and the New York City metro area, in partnership with United Airlines. United is one of Archer’s largest investors and has already paid the firm $10 million as part of a deal to purchase 100 Midnight aircraft.
AAM In the UAE
Archer’s planned entry into the UAE makes it the first U.S. eVTOL manufacturer to commit to operations in the country. But it probably won’t be the only player.
In December, GCAA and the Mohammed bin Rashid Aerospace Hub announced a partnership with vertiport firm VPorts to build a 9-acre AAM integrator center, which is expected to begin operating next year. The center will support flight testing and development of eVTOL designs and other emerging aircraft types.
The project received an initial investment of $40 million over three years, and construction is already underway. It’s expected to generate some $7 billion in revenue for Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the next 25 years.
More commitments were made in February at Dubai’s annual World Government Summit, where Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (the city’s crown prince) approved plans to develop a nationwide network of vertiports. Working with the U.K.’s Skyports, the goal is to develop infrastructure in time for widespread eVTOL air taxi services in 2026.
The plan includes a vertiport at Dubai International Airport (OMDB), the concept for which was unveiled in April by Skyports and British architecture firm Foster + Partners. The design is backed by Al Maktoum.
A promotional video posted to X (formerly Twitter) following the announcement featured eVTOL air taxis made by Joby, Archer’s main U.S. competitor. A Joby spokesperson told the Associated Press the manufacturer is “actively exploring the possibility” of flying in the UAE, but did not commit to operations in the region.
However, with the news that Joby will join Archer as an early SAVI participant, the implication is that the company’s air taxi won’t just be used for marketing purposes.
“Autonomous flight has the potential to unlock important benefits for our customers over the long term,” said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby. “We welcome the opportunity to participate in the SAVI cluster and look forward to collaborating with the team at ADIO as we work toward our mission of delivering fast, quiet, and convenient air taxi service in cities around the world.”
Another California-based eVTOL manufacturer, Odys Aviation, is building a headquarters in Abu Dhabi that will include a production facility. China’s EHang, which also plans to build a manufacturing plant in the capital, has conducted flight testing in the country since 2017. Last week, the firm earned the world’s first eVTOL type certificate from China’s aviation authority.
In June 2022, Falcon Aviation and Embraer subsidiary Eve Air Mobility announced plans to launch eVTOL tourism flights in Dubai starting in 2026. The agreement included a letter of intent for Falcon to purchase 35 Eve air taxis, which will likely join Midnight as some of the first eVTOL designs to fly commercially in the Middle East.