The US’ first electric ‘air taxi’ was just delivered to the Air Force — meet Joby’s eVTOL – DAVID RAUDALES

DAVID RAUDALES

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DAVID RAUDALES UK

The US’ first electric ‘air taxi’ was just delivered to the Air Force — meet Joby’s eVTOL

The USAF just received its first eVTOL from Joby Aviation, which Joby believes to be the first-ever “air taxi” delivered to the US.

Joby Aviation

Electric aircraft manufacturer Joby Aviation delivered its first eVTOL to the US Air Force in September.
The aircraft will run a range of missions as Joby develops an electric air taxi for passenger service.
Take a look at Joby’s eVTOL, which will fly with the USAF for a year as part of a $131 million DoD contract.

Electric aircraft manufacturer Joby Aviation just reached a huge milestone in the eVTOL industry.

On September 25, the planemaker announced that Edwards Air Force Base in California has received the first of two electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, or eVTOL for short — and Joby believes it to be the very first electric “air taxi” ever delivered to the US.

Air taxis are essentially giant people-moving drones favorable for their quiet, zero-emission electric motors, garnering interest from both airlines and the US military.

With options of up to nine aircraft, the historic eVTOL delivery is part of Joby’s greater $131 million contract with the DoD — a partnership that dates back to 2016 and has helped Joby develop the passenger eVTOL that it hopes to bring to market by 2025.

Take a look at Joby’s experimental eVTOL and how testing at Edwards will help further carve a path toward its eventual commercial use.

Founded in 2009, Joby has been developing its eVTOL for over a decade with the help of organizations like Toyota, NASA, and JetBlue Airways.The Joby Aviation team.

Joby Aviation

Joby started working on its eVTOL more than 14 years ago, collaborating with NASA in the early years on electric flight projects and eventually receiving financial backing from companies including JetBlue Airways and Toyota — the latter being a key helper in planning the eVTOL’s factory layout and overall manufacturing process.

The US military has played a significant role as well — and the delivery of its first eVTOL puts Joby that much closer to its goal of serving passengers.Joby eVTOL fuselage on the production line.

Joby Aviation

While the company’s current USAF contract is worth $131 million, Joby said its previously completed work combined with its current projects “represents a total potential contract value of $163 million, the largest in the industry.”

Joby’s project is part of the USAF’s AFWERX program, which fosters technical innovation through partnerships with small businesses — and it can be pretty successful.

According to the USAF, Joby Aviation “started with $50,000 in small business contracts and quickly graduated from small business funding to become a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.”

 

Joby hopes to enter the commercial market in 2025 with its five-seat eVTOL, which can carry up to four passengers and one pilot.Joby’s eVTOL at Edwards Air Force Base.

Joby Aviation

The company’s first-ever production prototype aircraft rolled off the assembly line in June, and quickly received a special airworthiness certificate from the FAA to start flight testing.

Earlier versions of the eVTOL had already flown some 30,000 hours starting in 2019.

Equipped with six propellers and 12 batteries, the eVTOL can travel up to 100 miles on a single charge and reach top speeds of 200 miles per hour.One of the propellers on Joby Aviation’s eVTOL.

Joby Aviation

Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt previously told Insider that each motor has two batteries powering it, adding a layer of safety redundancy.

“There are a total of four battery packs on the plane, but even if you lose a battery pack, a given motor can still generate all of its normal thrust,” he explained.

 

Delta Air Lines is so far the only carrier in the US to significantly invest in Joby, backing it with a $60 million investment in October 2022.A Delta Air Lines plane.

AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images via Getty Images

Delta plans to use Joby’s eVTOL aircraft as a hopper service between city centers and major airports like those in Los Angeles and New York City, offering a way for customers to avoid congested roadways by flying over the traffic instead.

Its low noise may be a sigh of relief for city residents who have long-complained of loud helicopters flying overhead, especially in Manhattan.

Bevirt told Insider that Joby expects the per-person fares will be priced close to that of an Uber Black.Joby Aviation eVTOL.

Joby Aviation

This is similar to claims made by other electric aircraft startups like Archer Aviation, which is a competitor to Joby and has already received orders from carriers including United Airlines.

Before anyone can ride in a commercial eVTOL, though, the aircraft type has to get certified — but manufacturers have faced roadblocks.Inside the cockpit of Joby’s eVTOL.

Joby Aviation

When the Federal Aviation Administration started the certification process of electric air taxis in the US, it re-categorized the vehicle as “powered lift” because it takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane.

This forced the agency to rewrite the guidance for eVTOLs, particularly around pilot training. Despite the setback that forced Joby to maneuver around changing rules, Bevirt told Insider he doesn’t anticipate any further issues and “sees a clear route to certification.”

As it continues its race towards FAA approval, Joby’s recently delivered eVTOL will have a range of missions during its year at Edwards Air Force Base.USAF pilots learning how to remotely fly Joby’s eVTOL.

Joby Aviation

The aircraft was built on Joby’s pilot production line in Marina, California, and is considered a demonstrator craft. It will be used to assess a number of logistical capabilities, like joint flight testing, and cargo and passenger transport. 

According to Joby, the joint flight tests have already begun and will be conducted by pilots from both the Air Force and the manufacturer to “demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities in realistic mission settings.”

A second Joby eVTOL will be delivered to Edwards in early 2024. 

Charging equipment and ground support will be provided to Edwards by Joby, but the trials will operate out of a USAF-constructed facility purpose-built for joint testing.Joby’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, recently delivered to Edwards Air Force Base.

Joby Aviation

At the facility, pilots and maintenance crews will undergo training on the eVTOL.

Joby said the results of the training and testing will “provide the DOD with valuable insight into the performance of eVTOL aircraft,” as well as offer the manufacturer “on-the-ground operational and training experience as the company prepares for the launch of commercial passenger service in 2025.”

NASA also has a stake in the program, with plans to use Joby’s eVTOL to see how air taxis best fit into the US national airspace system.The production process of Joby’s eVTOL.

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“NASA’s participation in the Joby and AFWERX project will provide our researchers with hands-on experience with a representative eVTOL vehicle, concentrated on how these types of aircraft could fit into the national airspace for everyday use, that will inform NASA’s effort in supporting the entire eVTOL industry,” NASA research pilot Wayne Ringelberg said in a press release.

“The research will include a focus on handling qualities evaluation tools, autonomy, and airspace integration, which is all needed research to push the industry forward.”

Joby’s eVTOL is not the only historic aircraft to operate at Edwards, with both the first American fighter jet and the first supersonic aircraft setting records at the base.One of the three prototype Bell P-59s.

US Air Force

Powered by two General Electric turbojets, the American-made Bell P-59 Airacomet fighter made its world debut in October 1942 when the first of three prototypes flew over what is now known as Edwards Air Force Base.

While it never saw combat, it was invaluable for training during World War II and helped the US gather data to make better-performing planes.

Meanwhile, the supersonic Bell X-1 broke the sound barrier for the first time at Edwards in 1947.

Even NASA’s Space Shuttle landed at Edwards after its first return from Earth’s Orbit in 1981.The rear wheels of the space shuttle orbiter Columbia touched down on Rogers dry lake at Edwards Air Force Base in 1981.

NASA

According to the space agency, the historic mission “marked the first NASA flight to end with a wheeled landing and represented the beginning of a new age of spaceflight that would employ the same hardware repeatedly.”

As many as 300,000 people showed up to see the groundbreaking landing.

Since announcing the delivery, Joby has hit another significant milestone on its road to certification — piloted test flights.US Air Force personnel with Joby’s experimental eVTOL.

Joby Aviation

According to Joby, a majority of its eVTOL test flights have been remotely piloted from a ground station “using state-of-the-art communications technology and software.” 

However, the manufacturer announced on Wednesday that it is finally putting a pilot in the cockpit.

So far, four pilots have flown its electric pre-production prototype aircraft, who completed “a series of initial tests that included free thrustborne hovers and forward transitions to semi-thrustborne flight.”

The flights, which were performed at Joby’s production plant in California, assessed things like aircraft handling and pilot control interfaces.Joby prototype eVTOL at its production facility in California.

Joby Aviation

The pilots performed things like vertical takeoff, accelerating, transitioning from hover to forward flight, deceleration, and landing.

“Having helped design and test flight controls for a wide variety of aircraft, including all three variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, nothing compares to the simplicity and grace of the Joby aircraft,” Joby chief test pilot James “Buddy” Denham said, who was one of the four pilots to fly in the eVTOL.

Joby has also recently announced Dayton, Ohio, as the location of its first scaled manufacturing plant, where it plans to invest up to $500 million.Rendering of Joby’s Ohio plant.

Joby Aviation

Starting in 2025, the company expects to mass produce up to 500 eVTOLs per year at the new 140-acre facility, which also happens to be in the same city where the famous Wright Brothers opened the first airplane factory in the US in 1910.

Read the original article on Business Insider