Joby is at or near the front of a crowded field of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) developers hoping to fly paying passengers in certified aircraft within a few years. Among the more well-funded firms, Joby took over Uber’s effort to create networks of electric air taxis for urban centers, and secured FAA agreement on a process to approve the first electric aircraft of their kind.
The full-size, five-seat prototype was flown remotely from the ground, around the company’s flight base in Big Sur, California. Chief Test Pilot Justin Paines completed 11 laps in a circle bookended by a vertical takeoff and a vertical landing, a significant distinction from other announced efforts in the eVTOL race. The recent flight lasted 1 hour, 17 minutes covering a total distance of 154.6 statute miles, the company announced July 27.
At least one competitor has reportedly covered a longer distance, but unnamed sources said that flight used a conventional fixed-wing takeoff and landing configuration, which consumes far less energy. The desire to take off and land vertically from city rooftops is part of eVTOL’s allure, but batteries remain a technological bottleneck, with no chemistry yet devised that can come close to matching the energy density of petroleum-based fuels.
Joby engineers settled on commercially available lithium-ion batteries adapted for aerospace use, balancing trade-offs between energy storage capacity and battery service life. The company noted that the chosen battery has been shown capable of more than 10,000 flight cycles in laboratory tests.
“We’ve achieved something that many thought impossible with today’s battery technology,” said Joby founder and CEO JoBen Bevirt, in the online announcement.
The company predicts the aircraft will enter service in 2024.