PALO ALTO — In the race to be the first U.S. company to certify an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for urban air mobility, it’s a competition between the tortoise and the hare. Founded nine years apart, Archer Aviation and Joby Aviation could not be more different. While both are well-funded through advantageously timed public offerings in 2021, that’s where the similarity ends.
Founded in September 2009, Joby Aviation has arranged itself for a long, slow build to market, focusing on developing its vertically integrated capabilities from the ground up, in part through a long collaboration with NASA. If you were to launch an eVTOL manufacturer in late 2018 to be ready for market by 2024, you wouldn’t pick Joby’s strategy, nor in 2009 would you pick Archer’s.
Evident in Archer’s path to a 2024 Federal Aviation Administration Type Certificate is an enterprise built for speed. Archer, founded in October 2018, moved rapidly to raise capital to develop its Maker technology demonstrator (unveiled in June 2021) and is now advancing into detailed design and certification with Midnight — its newly unveiled production aircraft — along with an army of established suppliers aiding its quick ascent.
“We chose this path very deliberately, because we believe it is the fastest way to certify an eVTOL and to date that strategy is clearly working for us,” said Mark Mesler, Archer’s chief financial officer, who joined the company in January.
Midnight’s debut in a small hangar on November 16 at the Palo Alto Airport had all the pomp and circumstance that you’d expect from a Silicon Valley product unveiling, especially one from a company of now 500 staff that is trying to illustrate to investors and the world that it will be viable in the long-term.
Archer has leaned into the gloss, positioning itself as a lifestyle brand for the highly-mobile Uber Black crowd. The flashy announcement was replete with Julien Montousse, Archer’s European-accented chief industrial designer, extolling the virtues of Midnight’s “unique design expression.” It was a flex that Apple’s Jony Ive would no doubt have recognized.
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