Joby Aviation is looking to conduct a series of high profile air taxi flights over San Francisco Bay, according to a set of documents that were filed with the FCC. These potential flights would feature Joby’s S4, the company’s second-gen pre-production prototype eVTOL air taxi, and would be the first to be conducted in an urban environment for the public to witness. The S4 would be tested in two primary locations: One between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, and the other just south of the Bay Bridge, near Alameda. 

According to Oliver Walker-Jones, Joby’s head of marketing, communications and brand, “We’re currently in the early stages of exploring the potential to perform a limited number of flights. We have no confirmed plans yet and securing permission to do so requires us to work with a range of local and federal authorities. That said, this is all very exciting.”

The documents explain that the purpose of these tests is the evaluation of radio equipment that is used for remote control of the aircraft, which will be essential for Joby’s efforts in obtaining FAA flight certification. The tests would be performed through remote piloting from the ground, and the S4 would not hold any passengers for this set of flights. The details regarding take-off and landing have not been released to the public yet, although Walker-Jones noted that it would be on dry land. 

Photograph: Joby Aviation

“Testing the radio is the goal of the demonstration flight in that area,” said Walker-Jones. “Of course, in the future we do see some positive benefits to the idea of demonstrating the technology in an urban environment so that people start to see and understand how it fits into where it may eventually operate.”

The S4, an all-electric, multi-propeller, five-seat VTOL aircraft, has a wingspan of nearly 40 feet, weighs up to 4,400 pounds, and has undergone flights up to 150 miles at 5,000 feet. When the document was filed, the S4 had completed 562 test flights and logged a flight time of around 27 hours (with an average flight duration of less than three minutes), and flown no faster than 80 mph or higher than 1,000 feet. According to Walker-Jones, Joby has gone far past those previous records, with the prototype recently reaching speeds of 200 mph, and completing 17 missions over 20 minutes in duration in January. 

Photograph: Joby Aviation

“We have recently flown several flights above 7,000 feet (1.3 miles) mean sea level,” said Walker-Jones. All of these flights took place in remote coastal areas and over private land around Santa Cruz, California. The 7,000-foot altitude record, if confirmed, would be much higher than air taxis are generally expected to operate for short intra- and inter-city flights.

Joby’s FCC application for the San Francisco tests is still pending.

Photograph: Joby Aviation

Why it’s important: With Joby Aviation expecting to become a certified air carrier by the end of 2022, this set of flights would be the first full-scale air taxi flights in an American city. The tests would be likely to generate significant media coverage for the company, which went public last summer via a $1.1 billion SPAC deal.

Source // Tech Crunch

Posted by Ian Shin