Joby Aviation Unveils Second Prototype Air Taxi

California-based, Uber-backed company announces a new flight test campaign with the tilt-rotor aircraft.

On January 6, Joby announced it was adding a second electric air taxi test article to its fleet. [Courtesy: Joby Aviation]

California-based Joby Aviation (NYSE:JOBY) unveiled its second prototype electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) air taxi test article Thursday, while announcing plans to accelerate flight testing through this year. 

The new pre-production aircraft, which features six five-blade tilt-rotors like its predecessor, received an FAA special airworthiness certificate as well as airworthiness approval from the U.S. Air Force in December, according to Joby. 

The FAA special airworthiness certificate—more commonly known as an experimental certificate—officially authorizes Joby to begin flight testing the new aircraft.

The announcement represents a new phase of testing toward the Uber-backed company’s goal of manufacturing small, commercial passenger eVTOLs and then operating them as an on-demand ride-share airline. 

“Our 2021 flight test program delivered a wealth of information and experience to support our program,” said Joby CEO JoeBen Bevirt in a statement. “With two aircraft flying at the same time, we’ll be able to increase the speed of our learnings as planned, while continuing to fulfill the requirements of our Agility Prime contract.”

Agility Prime is an Air Force AFWERX program designed to leverage government resources to accelerate and bolster innovative commercial tech projects that could be valuable in the military sector. 

Unveiling Follows Successful Test Flight in 2021

Joby has been flying full-sized prototypes since 2017, conducting more than 1,000 test flights. It expects FAA certification for its first eVTOL aircraft in 2023 with commercial service expected in 2024.

Last summer, Joby achieved a significant testing milestone by flying its prototype more than 150 statute miles on a single battery charge. That test flight is in line with Joby’s 150-mile range goal for its production aircraft. 

The zero-emissions eVTOL is expected to boast a top speed of 200 mph/174 knots with a maximum capacity of four passengers and a pilot.

Wall Street investment house Morgan Stanley has projected Joby as an early standout in the race to bring eVTOL aircraft to market. In September, it gave Joby an Overweight rating, meaning its stock was expected to perform better than competitors in its market sector. 

Industry experts say the business model Joby is pursuing—creating an aircraft manufacturing company along with an airline—will be challenging and very expensive. 

Overall, Morgan Stanley projected the entire eVTOL industry could be worth more than $1 trillion by 2040. 

Thom is a former senior editor for FLYING. Previously, his freelance reporting appeared in aviation industry magazines. Thom also spent three decades as a TV and digital journalist at CNN’s bureaus in Washington and Atlanta, eventually specializing in aviation. He has reported from air shows in Oshkosh, Farnborough and Paris. Follow Thom on Twitter @thompatterson.

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