Aerial ridesharing is coming to a rooftop near you.
While the aviation industry struggles to get green, the electric air taxi industry is preparing to take off.
A fast, but quiet electric air taxi service with zero operating emissions looks set to become a viable form of transport within years, providing direct connections similar to land-based taxi services.
One of the pioneers in this sector is Californian-based Joby Aviation, which is hoping to get clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its all-electric aircraft by 2023, with plans to introduce it for commercial on-demand ride-sharing services in 2024.
Its new model of transportation is being constructed from the ground up, from the prototype aircraft right through to the necessary infrastructure and industry regulation.
Established in 2009, Joby says it has conducted over 1000 test flights with its eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing) craft which it has created to help reduce urban congestion and accelerate the shift to sustainable modes of transit.
With the ability to take off and land vertically (like a helicopter) but with more propellers and minus all the noise, Joby has been pursuing partnership deals to create takeoff and landing sites.
These include locations and in city areas, where rooftops on dormant parking garage structures would be repurposed into ‘Skyparks’.
This is our generation’s moonshot moment, and at Joby we’re proud to be leaning in.
Joby Founder and CEO
“Powered by six electric motors, our aircraft takes off and lands vertically, giving us the flexibility to serve almost any community. “Flying with us might feel more like getting into an SUV than boarding a plane.”
“Aviation connects the world in critically important ways but today it does that at the expense of our planet,” says JoeBen Bevirt, founder and chief executive at Joby.
“By taking Joby public we have the opportunity to drive a renaissance in aviation, making emissions-free flight a part of everyday life. This is our generation’s moonshot moment, and at Joby we’re proud to be leaning in.”
The company counts among its partners Toyota and Uber Technologies and has also recently participated in the first trial of eVTOL aircraft in collaboration with NASA.
Throughout the trials of eVTOL craft NASA will collect performance and acoustic data for use in modelling and simulations and also aims to identify any gaps in current FAA regulations and policies as the new craft become integrated into the National Airspace System.
While there are others developing eVTOL aircraft, Joby became the first to receive airworthiness approval from the U.S Air Force in December 2020 as part of its ‘Agility Prime’ program.
It has also forged partnerships with industry partners such as Toyota and Uber’s air taxi division Elevate (which it acquired last year) to develop its eVTOL technology and infrastructure.
Its first full-scale prototype took to the skies in 2017. And In 2020, it agreed to a ‘G1’ certification basis with the FAA.
An eVTOL (electric vertical take off and landing) aircraft uses electric power to takeoff, land and hover vertically, delivering zero operating emissions.
It has a current maximum range of 242km (150miles) for a single charge and can transport a pilot and four passengers, travelling at speeds of up to 322kph (200 mph).It is an all-electric craft powered by six electric motors with six tilting propellers that each run off their own battery pack.
Each of the propellers is able to tilt from the vertical takeoff position to a cruising position, allowing the aircraft to take off vertically then fly in a forward motion.
The distributed nature of the craft allows for the redundancy necessary for operating safety and also helps to reduce noise – which is considered essential to the success of this new form of transport.
Who funds it:
Joby Aviation had raised $820 million in total funding from a wide range of investors, and key partners include Toyota and Uber Technology. In February, Joby Aviation announced a merger with Reinvent Technology Partners (RTP), and it was listed publicly on the New York Stock Exchange in August.
Is it ready to roll:
Joby is working on its first large-scale manufacturing facility with its partner Toyota providing expertise on factory layout, manufacturing process development and high-volume production. It plans to get regulatory clearance from the FAA in 2023, and launch its aerial ridesharing service in 2024.