First-Ever Air Taxi Delivery Made Possible By Government And Industry Partnership

Joby Aviation, a prominent aircraft manufacturer, has unveiled its latest air taxi, marking a significant milestone in the exploration of its potential for both civilian and military applications. This electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft has been delivered as part of a funded contract with the U.S. Air Force’s AFWERX Agility Prime program. Concurrently, NASA, in collaboration with AFWERX, will be conducting tests to assess how such vehicles can seamlessly integrate into the national airspace.

The collaboration between NASA and AFWERX in the realm of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) underscores their commitment to advancing this burgeoning industry. Parimal Kopardekar, NASA’s Integration Manager for the Advanced Air Mobility mission, emphasizes the significance of bringing together top talent and cutting-edge resources to expedite progress in this field.

Starting in 2024, NASA will deploy its pilots and researchers to conduct extensive testing of the Joby aircraft, with a specific focus on evaluating air traffic management, flight procedures, and ground-based infrastructure. These tests will harness NASA’s pilot expertise and utilize specialized equipment like the NASA Mobile Operating Facility, a mobile research laboratory.

This initiative builds upon NASA’s longstanding involvement in AAM research, which has laid the foundation for the current endeavors. NASA envisions air taxis and drones playing pivotal roles in emergency response, wildfire combat, and medical supply delivery, ultimately enhancing community connectivity and accessibility. NASA’s objective is to advance technologies that propel the entire air taxi and drone sector forward and to collaborate with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in shaping new policies. The insights gained from working with the Joby aircraft will enrich the wealth of knowledge already contributed by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to both the industry and the FAA.

This venture extends the collaboration between NASA and Joby, which previously engaged in a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement focused on the study of aircraft noise. This research encompassed a series of flight test simulations using Joby’s simulator, as well as actual flight testing.

Joby’s involvement in NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program during the early stages of its technology development highlights NASA’s commitment to supporting innovative technologies in the small business sector, with the aim of bolstering the U.S. economy.

Under the umbrella of AFWERX, the Agility Prime program spearheads the exploration of military applications for these aircraft. The delivered aircraft now resides at Edwards Air Force Base in Edwards, California, with the base’s Emerging Technologies Integrated Test Force in the 412th Test Wing overseeing the flight test campaign for Joby and Agility Prime. Notably, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center is also situated at Edwards, providing an ideal locale for flight research. This marks the initial step in a series of tests involving Joby aircraft that the Air Force plans to conduct at various U.S. military bases.

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