Joby Aviation’s eVTOL air taxi: Poised for takeoff following FAA approval for flight testing

Joby Aviation eVTOL Air Taxi Airworthy
Joby's inaugural eVTOL aircraft, freshly rolled off the pilot production line, has now received authorization for flight. Images © Joby Aviation

Joby Aviation, a pioneer in the field of electric air taxi services, has seen the first production prototype of its much-anticipated eVTOL (Electric Vertical Take-off and Landing) aircraft emerge from the production line in Marina, California. This marks a crucial milestone for the company, as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a special airworthiness certificate, allowing for initial flight tests.

Garnering over a decade of development, supported by more than US$2 billion in funding, Joby Aviation has placed itself at the forefront of the eVTOL industry. Its extensive record of high-speed, long-distance, and full-transition test flights bolsters the credibility of its endeavors.

The S4 aircraft, Joby’s flagship prototype, is a marvel of modern engineering. This five-seat machine can vertically take off and land, thanks to its six large propellers strategically positioned along its wings and V-tail. Following takeoff, the S4 can transition to an efficient cruise flight mode by tilting all its propellers forward. In this mode, it is capable of covering more than 150 miles (240 km) at speeds exceeding 200 mph (322 km/h).

eVTOLs, such as Joby’s S4, have several advantages over traditional helicopters. They’re substantially quieter, projected to be more cost-efficient, and produce zero emissions. Many hope these aircraft will revolutionize vertical commuting by offering a speedy, affordable means of bypassing traffic, once they’re fully integrated into commercial service.

However, it’s important to note that the special airworthiness certificate issued by the FAA is not a full type certification. The latter, still scheduled for 2024, would permit full-scale commercial operations. Entry into service is currently anticipated for 2025, although this could be delayed due to the stringent safety proofing required, on par with commercial airliners.

Joby Aviation CEO and California Governer
California Governor Gavin Newsom (right) and JoeBen Bevirt, Joby Aviation’s Founder and CEO (left), standing in front of the first aircraft to come off Joby’s Pilot Production Line in Marina, CA.

This inaugural prototype is set for delivery to the US Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base in 2024, potentially becoming the first eVTOL ever delivered to a customer. The Air Force’s contribution of up to US$131 million through its Agility Prime program has played a significant role in Joby’s development efforts. This program aims to expedite the development of such futuristic aircraft for potential military uses and establish American sovereignty in this emergent technology domain.

Interestingly, Joby’s production line was established with the assistance of Toyota, the company’s largest external shareholder, which invested $400 million into the project. Toyota has lent its expertise from the automotive industry, specifically mass serial production, to this ambitious endeavor.

The prototype was manufactured in accordance with a released design and built following a complete implementation of a quality management system. As Joby’s eVTOL prepares for its upcoming flight tests, the industry is not quite at the finish line but is certainly making considerable strides towards revolutionizing urban air mobility.

Source: Joby Aviation