MARINA – About six months ahead of schedule, Joby Aviation – a company developing electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles – delivered its first aircraft to Edwards Air Force Base. The aircraft was the first built on Joby’s Pilot Production Line in Marina and is believed to be the first delivery of an electric air taxi in the United States.
The company rolled out the first aircraft off its manufacturing line in June after it received the Federal Aviation Administration Special Certificate of Airworthiness for the aircraft. That allowed it to begin flight testing its first production prototype.
As part of Joby’s up to $131 million AFWERX Agility Prime contract with the U.S. Air Force, the aircraft has already begun flying at Edwards Air Force Base and is the first electric air taxi to be stationed on a U.S. military base.
AFWERX, Air Force Work Project, is a technology directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory and the innovation arm of the Department of the Air Force, to accelerate agile and affordable capability transitions by teaming innovative technology developers with Airman and Guardian talent.
The aircraft that was built in Marina will be stationed at Edwards Air Force Base for at least the next year, with charging and ground support equipment provided by Joby at the base site in a facility built by the Air Force for joint flight test operation purposes.
The Air Force and Joby will conduct joint flight testing and operations to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities in realistic mission settings. On-base operations will also include the training of Air Force pilots and aircraft maintenance crews, which will provide the Department of Defense with insight into the performance of eVTOL aircraft and will give Joby on-the-ground operational and training experience as the company prepares for the launch of commercial passenger service in 2025.
Joby Aviation plans to operate its aircraft as part of aerial ridesharing networks in cities and communities around the world in about two years, building on partnerships it has developed with Delta and Uber. Joby’s production aircraft is designed to transport a pilot and four passengers at speeds of up to 200 mph, with a maximum range of 100 miles.
NASA will also be supporting the testing of the Joby aircraft, in a partnership with the AFWERX program, with NASA’s pilots, researchers and equipment as part of its commitment to further the Advanced Air Mobility industry.
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center is located on Edwards Air Force Base.
“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,” said JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby Aviation, in a press release.
Joby’s partnership with the Department of Defense dates back to its 2016 engagement with the Defense Innovation Unit, which granted the company early funding as well as access to test ranges and expertise that have aided its aircraft development program.
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In the past year, the Air Force and Marines have visited Joby’s manufacturing and flight test facilities in Marina multiple times. Four Air Force pilots completed full remotely-piloted transition flights of the Joby aircraft in April, and two groups of Marines visited in May to conduct mission analysis regarding potential logistics and medical applications of the vehicle.
Joby’s current and previously completed work with the Department of Defense represents a total potential contract value of $163 million, the largest in the industry.
The AFWERX Agility Prime contract includes the provisioning of up to nine aircraft to the Air Force and other federal agencies. A second Joby aircraft to be built on Joby’s Pilot Production Line in Marina is planned to be delivered to Edwards in early 2024.
Joby Aviation said that at least three more of its aircraft are in the Marina production pipeline.