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Sat, Sep 30, 2023

Joby Delivers First eVTOL to Edwards Air Force Base

The Emperor’s New Toy

Joby Aviation, Inc., the Toyota-backed designer and builder of electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, has delivered its first production eVTOL to Edwards Air Force Base approximately six months ahead of the expected 2024 delivery date.

The USAF, by way of on-base operations of subject aircraft conducted in cooperation with Joby, will endeavor to demonstrate the machine’s applicability to a range of logistics missions, including cargo and passenger transportation.

Additionally, NASA, in partnership with the USAF, will utilize Joby aircraft to conduct research germane to the utilization of such machines within the U.S. National Airspace System (NAS).

Joby’s eVTOL is the first such aircraft to be stationed on a U.S. military base. Moreover, the contraption, built and handed over to the USAF under the auspices of Joby’s $131-million AFWERX Agility Prime contract with the service, is believed to be the first electric air taxi delivered in the United States.

Joby’s work in service of the Department of Defense represents a total potential contract value of $163-million, the largest in the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) industry.

Joby’s Agility Prime contract calls for the Santa Cruz, California-based company to provide the Air Force and other federal agencies as many as nine eVTOL aircraft.

Built on Joby’s pilot production line in Marina, California, the newly-delivered aircraft will be stationed at Edwards Air Force Base for at least the next year, with on-base charging and ground support equipment provided by Joby in a facility purpose-built by the Air Force for joint flight test operations. On-base operations of the eVTOL will include the training of Air Force pilots and aircraft maintenance crews, The described testing regimen will provide the DOD valuable insights vis-a-vis the performance of eVTOL aircraft, while affording Joby on-the-ground operational and training experience beneficial to the company’s aspiration to launch commercial eVTOL passenger service in 2025.

Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt stated: “We’re proud to join the ranks of revolutionary aircraft that first demonstrated their capabilities at Edwards Air Force Base, including the first American jet fighter, the first supersonic aircraft, and many others that have pushed the boundaries of aviation technology.”

Bevirt continued: “The longstanding support of the DOD and NASA has been critical to the rapid development of electric aviation and eVTOL aircraft, and demonstrates how successful public-private partnerships can bring new technology to life at speed. Their work will have profound implications for continued American leadership in both commercial and defense aerospace technology.”

Joby’s partnership with the U.S. DOD dates back to the company’s 2016 engagement with the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), which granted Joby early funding as well as access to test ranges and expertise beneficial to the development of its eVTOL platform.

Colonel Elliott Leigh, AFWERX director and chief commercialization officer for the Department of the Air Force, set forth: “Agility Prime’s stated objective in 2020 was to work towards an operational capability for transformative vertical lift in the DoD by 2023. The arrival of Joby’s aircraft at Edwards AFB is an important step towards achieving this objective.”

Major Phillip Woodhull, director of emerging technologies integrated test force asserted: “The delivery of this first eVTOL aircraft is the start of a new chapter in Edwards’ rich aerospace history. This partners private industry with the 412th Test Wing’s world-renowned test management execution. We are excited to agilely test, experiment with, and evaluate this new technology for potential future national defense applications.”

NASA research pilot Wayne Ringelberg remarked: “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. 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.”

Unlike competing eVTOL concerns, which look to sell their respective aircraft to airlines, leasing firms, and logistics companies, Joby plans to mass-produce its eVTOL and utilize a fleet of such to operate a piloted, on-demand air-taxi service—after the fashion of a ride-share app.

Upon FAA certification of its eVTOL, Joby will compete in a crowded market with rival developers the likes of Archer Aviation, Lilium, and Vertical Aerospace Ltd—the lot of which seek to revolutionize urban transportation.

The whole of the U.S. military community has cast curious and covetous eyes upon eVTOL, the nimbleness, small size, and relative silence of which are eminently conducive to the stealthy, small-scale operations the Pentagon deems critical to short-term, near-peer conflicts. What’s more, the sense of environmental stewardship tacitly conveyed by their collective adoption of eVTOL’s is good for the optics of an Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps currently facing record-low recruitment numbers.

Presuming development proceeds apace, Joby’s eVTOL will come to market a piloted, four-passenger commercial aircraft with a single-charge range of 130-nautical-miles and a maximum speed of 174-knots. The electrically-powered, ostensibly zero-emission machine is designed to be one-hundred-times quieter than a conventional helicopter during takeoff and landing.

FMI: www.jobyaviation.com

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