Joby Aviation has added a second preproduction example of its four-passenger eVTOL aircraft as it steps up a flight test program expected to lead to type certification and the launch of air taxi services in 2024. The California-based company announced that in late December both the FAA and the U.S Air Force issued airworthiness approval for the second aircraft to begin flight operations.
The second prototype is due to start flight tests later this month as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Agility Prime program to evaluate the use of eVTOL aircraft for military missions. The aircraft is expected to have a range of 150 miles and a top speed of 200 mph when certified.
According to Joby, during 2021, the first pre-production aircraft flew more than 5,300 miles, generating 65 terabytes of test data. In one of the sorties, the company says, it achieved the longest flight to date by an eVTOL aircraft, logging 154.6 miles on a single electric charge. Since 2017, it has completed more than 1,000 flights in full-scale prototype aircraft.
“Our 2021 flight test program delivered a wealth of information and experience to support our program,” said Joby CEO and founder JoeBen Bevirt. “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 requirements of our Agility Prime contract.”
Joby appears to be significantly further along in its work toward type certification than any of its direct competitors, with the possible exception of EHang, which for now is focusing on getting approval for its smaller, shorter-range eVTOL vehicles in China. In 2020, the U.S. public company, which now has around 1,000 employees, reached an agreement with the FAA for its Stage 4 G-1 certification basis, having established the Stage 2 G-1 landmark in 2019. The Joby engineering team is now working with the aviation safety agency to define the means of compliance for the certification process.
This month, Joby opened its new aviation academy, offering free private pilot ground school for its employees. More than 400 staff and their families signed up for the first course.
In December, Archer's Maker eVTOL technology demonstrator made its first hover flight, as it works to complete the design of the full-scale model. In Europe, Volocopter has extensively flown its 2X prototype, while Lilium is preparing to get its revised design flying this year, along with UK-based Vertical Aerospace. EHang continues to conduct extensive flight demonstration work in China and various international locations, with the Civil Aviation Administration of China actively engaged in preparations for type certification.